Baptists Offered Kids Pool, Tennis Courts

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U.S. members of the Baptist "rescue mission" behind bars in Port-au-Prince
CBS
Members of an American church group say they went to Haiti to help orphans. Instead, they're accused of child trafficking. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker has more.

The 10 American Baptists accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian children in an illicit adoption scheme remain locked in a Port-au-Prince jail, insisting they've done nothing wrong.

"Our understanding is that they had lost parents in the quake or possibly some had parents abandon them before the quake," said Laura Silsby, a member of the group.

Across town, the 33 Haitian children were playing happily at a Port-au-Prince orphanage. Several of them said they are not orphans at all.

"My parents gave me to the Americans so I could have a better life," one girl said, speaking through a translator.

The 10 Americans were arrested trying to drive a bus with the children across the border Friday night. As they were crossing the Dominican border, one of the children started crying so loudly it alarmed the guards, who looked inside and found that the children had no papers.

No passports, no documents - but one of the children did have a flier from the "Americans' New Life Children's Refuge" promising an education, a swimming pool and tennis courts in the Dominican Republic.

CBS News went to the hard-hit village in the hills above Port-au-Prince where the children were taken and found parents and siblings of 20 of the children, almost the entire village. The parents said they willingly signed their children over to the Americans.

"We have ho house, no schools, we have nothing," mother Geffoid Jesneo said in Creole. "So I sent her away to get a better education." She said her daughter will be better off away from the village.

But try telling that to her 10-year-old daughter at the orphanage.

The Americans have ignited a firestorm. Even before the quake, Haiti was plagued by the unscrupulous trafficking of children for overseas adoptions. In the current chaos, there's fear that thousands of lost and orphaned children will fall prey to traffickers. The prime minister says he hopes to make an example of the Americans.

"For me it's a group of people who violated the law," he said.