Macomb County mom sentenced 10 years in adoption fraud scheme

Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 19:26:22-05

(WXYZ) — Tara Lee, the Macomb County mother at the center of an FBI adoption probe, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 10 years in a maximum-security prison.

Lee was also ordered by the judge to pay $1 million in restitution.

The sentencing came more than six months after Lee pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud.

The 7 Investigators first exposed Lee back in 2018. The 38-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud as part of an adoption fraud scheme. Lee acknowledged in her plea that she made up fake birth mothers, told adoptive couples that babies died when they never existed and double-matched couples with the same birth moms. As part of her plea deal, she’s facing 8 to 10 years behind bars.

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In a sentencing memorandum unveiled in federal court filings earlier this week, feds say Lee took $2.1 million since 2014. They say her “luxury expenditures” totaled $372,892.63, including $44,065.03 spent at Louis Vuitton, $42,705.91 spent at David Yurman, and $34,899.44 spent at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said “Lee ruthlessly exploited the hopes and dreams of adoptive parents for her own financial gain… she claimed to be a licensed social worker, doula, adoption agency and therapist. She was none of those things; instead, she was a scam artist.”

Woodward said Lee did more than steal money, “she broke her victims’ hearts, over and over again.”

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Dozens of victims who were promised babies – that often didn’t exist – provided letters to the judge, including one that said “Lee has stolen our souls.”

These new court records show the extent of Lee’s alleged scheme: “the FBI investigation identified over 160 adoptive couples and 70 birthmothers in 24 states that worked with Lee.”