Adoption Scam Leaves Family Devastated
Demmons & Gabby and Ella
CAMPBELLSPORT - A Campbellsport family is heartbroken after becoming victims of an international adoption agency.
Mark and Heather Demmon decided about two years ago to share their home with a needy child. They found two little girls from Guatemala named Flor and Linda.
The adoption agency with the girls' case was Minnesota-based Reaching Arms International. They started the process last June. Now, nearly a year later, the Demmons are out $30,000 and they still have no child. The couple told their story to TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Lauren Leamanczyk.
They did their homework. Reaching Arms had mostly good references when the Demmons started the adoption. Now, the agency has lost its license, it is being investigated by the Minnesota attorney general and it is in the midst of an audit, all because of complaints from families like the Demmons.
The couple saw problems with the agency early on. They would go months without receiving any updates. Once they tried to complain, but Heather Demmon said the agency's owner threatened to derail the adoption.
"She said that the children weren't ours yet. That they were citizens of Guatemala and she could make sure it stayed that way," she recalled.
Afraid to lose children they'd grown to love, the couple stayed with the agency.
Concerned for the safety of Flor and Linda, the Demmons eventually flew to Guatemala. They cleared it with the agency. But when the couple got to Central America, no one knew they were coming. A Guatemalan lawyer brought two little girls to meet them. But the girls were not Flor and Linda.
It turns out, Flor and Linda were never legally adoptable. All the documents the Demmons had received were fake. Still, even though the two girls in front of them weren't who they planned to adopt, the couple grew attached.
The new girls were twins, Gabby and Ella. After four days together, the new family bonded. "When the lawyer and their foster mom showed up, they started to scream and cling to me, screaming 'No mommy, no daddy, no, no, no'," Heather Demmon said.
The Demmons had to leave Guatemala. A few weeks later, they found out Gabby and Ella weren't up for adoption either.
Now they find themselves with no children, no contact with Reaching Arms, and not enough money left to try to adopt again.
Reaching Arms is fighting its license revocation, saying the agency has placed 900 children successfully. They could not be reached Tuesday for an interview. The attorney general's investigation found evidence of the agency changing fees and forging documents.