Though they were promised a little Russian girl, the adoption fell through and the Kurlins had nothing to show for the $14,000 paid to an adoption facilitator named Adrienne Lewis.
"I just had a feeling something wasn't right," said Helene Kurlin. "I didn't like the way she was conducting business. I didn't see why I had the urgency to send her, wire her the money."
It wasn't just the Kurlins who had wired money to Lewis; other couples say they were ripped off, too, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes.
At the time, Lewis was living and working in California as an unlicensed adoption facilitator someone who matches couples who want to adopt with birth mothers. So the Kurlins' attorney, Mark Foster filed suit and won on behalf of the Kurlins and another couple who also say they paid money, never got a child and never received a full refund.
Foster traced Adrienne Lewis to a half-million dollar home on Florida's Indian River in an effort to collect the $50,000 owed his clients.
"We are closer, we know where Adrienne Lewis is," says Foster. "We know she continues to do business. We've verified she's living large, we know there is money there."
Lewis continued to operate as an adoption facilitator in Florida while working with a licensed adoption agency in Louisiana called Global Adoptions. But since the initial investigation, CBS News learned that Louisiana has revoked Global Adoptions' license for "lack of ethical dealings with clients" following more complaints against Lewis and the company.
Lewis wouldn't appear on camera, but in a phone interview she claimed she's no longer working as an adoption facilitator, and said she "did not do anything wrong and did not violate the law."
But that's the problem. According to many experts, aoption laws vary from state to state with little oversight, and only a few states require facilitators to be licensed. Though California was poised to introduce tough new legislation to regulate facilitators, that's been scrapped for now.
So in many states, there's little to protect the Kurlins or the 20 other prospective parents who claim Lewis deceived them.
And even those who've won judgements against her may never see their money.
"She needs to pay her debts or she needs to be put out of business," says Foster. But so far that's proved very hard to do.
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