Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

State Accuses Commonwealth Adoptions of Fraud

State accuses Tucson adoption agency of fraud
Attorney general alleges $215,000 in unpaid refunds; Commonwealth says it's been working with families

By Dale Quinn
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 11.19.2008

The state accused a Tucson-based international adoption agency of consumer fraud Tuesday, claiming in a lawsuit the company failed to refund nearly $215,000 to adopting families.

Commonwealth Adoptions International Inc. shut down earlier this year after it was denied the accreditation required by many countries to place children with foreign families.

Families who had already begun the adoption process, some of whom paid thousands of dollars, were denied repayment, documents filed in Pima County Superior Court show.

Commonwealth President Marina Mayhew, Director of Operations Dawn Hill and board members Jim Sellers, James Mayhew, Dan Bish and William Hundelang are each named in the lawsuit.

Mayhew said in an e-mail that Commonwealth was surprised by the accusation and that the company has been working with families so they wouldn't be affected by the closure.

According to the complaint filed by Attorney General Terry Goddard, Commonwealth engaged in a pattern of misrepresentation and deceptive practices when it offered domestic and foreign adoption services to families.

The company entered contracts with families and claimed it would provide adoption services in exchange for fees. Instead, Commonwealth pooled the money, using cash paid by one set of parents to pay for other families' adoptions, the lawsuit says.

More than 20 families asked for refunds when Commonwealth failed to provide those services, but after going out of business the agency said the money had already been used for other families' adoptions, according to the attorney general.

In the e-mail, Mayhew said she hadn't seen the complaint.

The agency learned in July that it had been denied accreditation required by the Hague Convention — a treaty that governs international adoptions, signed by the United States and nearly 75 other countries. The aim of the treaty, which went into effect April 1, is to prevent the illegal trafficking of children and to ensure that international adoption is in the best interest of the child.

"We have been working on transitioning families to other adoption professionals since that time," Mayhew said. "At present, out of 340 families in process at the time of (the) closing announcement, the overwhelming majority have been transferred to other adoption agencies without interruption or having to pay additional fees."

The agency has sought consultation from a bankruptcy attorney but has postponed filing for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, Mayhew said. The company put off filing so its volunteer staffers could continue transitioning families to other agencies, she said. Commonwealth had been in business for 15 years and successfully processed more than 2,000 adoptions, Mayhew said.
Commonwealth had offices in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas, as well as in Tucson at 1585 E. River Road.

● Contact reporter Dale Quinn at 573-4197 or