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Agency Director Pleads Guilty to Adoption Fraud

(CN) - A former program director for an international adoption agency pleaded guilty to deceiving the U.S. government and bribing foreign officials to facilitate adoptions from Ethiopia.

James Harding, a former director of International Adoptions Guides Inc., admitted in the Federal Court in Charleston, S.C., that he was part of a conspiracy that for two years submitted fraudulent documents to the U.S. state department to assist the adoption of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents.

Federal prosecutors said that in support of U.S. visa applications for the Ethiopian children, Harding and others submitted false documentation, including contracts of adoption signed by orphanages that could not properly give the children up for adoption because they never cared for or housed them.

Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge Sol Blatt Jr., Harding also admitted he and others paid bribes to two Ethiopian officials for their help with the fraudulent adoptions.

According to court documents, these payments include bribes paid to the head of the regional ministry for women's and children's affairs in exchange for the official's approval of the applications for inter-country adoptions.

A sentencing date for Harding, a resident of Atlanta, Ga., has yet to be set.

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