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Adoption Was a Scam, Unhappy Couple Says

AUSTIN (CN) - A couple claim they were bilked of $26,950 by an adoption agency that never provided them with a child.

Cindi Faulkner and Dana Howland sued Family to Family Adoptions in Travis County Court.

They claim they paid $12,000 in initial nonrefundable fees, for a "match" with a birth mother. When they did not receive a match after 6 months, and told Family to Family they were considering other options, "within just days of learning this information, Family to Family conveniently had a potential match available," according to the complaint.

The couple claims Family to Family's executive director Maxine Seiler told them a woman named Angela was pregnant with twin girls. They agreed to meet her.

"Within minutes of plaintiffs' meeting Angela in person on August 28, the executive director pressed plaintiffs to sign the pre-populated [sic] adoption plan, pay the $9,950 match fee, and submit $5,000 in deposits for the birth mother's living and medical expenses," the complaint states. "Excited that Family to Family had not only matched them with a birth mother but a birth mother of twins, plaintiffs signed and paid, bringing plaintiffs' total payments to Family to Family for its adoption services up to $26,950."

But the say their "excitement soon turned to concern. Angela refused to go to Family to Family's doctor, she canceled every doctor's appointment she claimed to have, and she changed her phone number multiple times in less than two weeks."

The plaintiffs say they began to believe that Angela was not actually pregnant.

"Family to Family responded that they believed Angela was pregnant based on ultrasounds she showed them, even though (as is clear now) Family to Family knew it had never confirmed Angela's identity, obtained her medical records, subjected her to pregnancy test, or in any way confirmed Angela's supposed pregnancy before presenting her as a 'birth mother' to plaintiffs. Ms. Seiler further revealed to plaintiffs that they had been a recent increase in birth mother scams."

The plaintiffs say the next day, Family to Family sent an employee to ask Angela to take a pregnancy test, "which could not be obtained. The executive director ultimately described the situation to plaintiffs as a 'classic' scam and concluded that Angela was not pregnant. Not surprisingly by this time Angela - or whoever she was-has simply disappeared."

The plaintiffs say Family to Family induced them to pay the additional thousands of dollars knowing that it had not verified Angela's identify, or her pregnancy.

"Family to Family's acts and omissions could only have been for the purpose of inducing plaintiffs to pay Family to Family the match fee (which the executive director later claimed could be used for a future match but was nonrefundable) and thereby be even further locked in with Family to Family, rather than them further explore other options."

Faulkner and Howland wants their $26,950 refunded, costs, and punitive damages for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and mental anguish.

They are represented by Lorinda Holloway with Brown McCarroll of Austin.

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