A 15-year-old Mexican mother has revealed how she was duped into parting with her baby by the child trafficking ring at the heart of an Irish adoption scandal.
Karla Zepeda was offered $755 for a two week photo shoot with her tiny baby girl when a woman was approaching mothers in her poor neighbourhood looking for babies to photograph in an anti-abortion ad campaign.
The teenager could barely believe her ears. Earning just $180 a month at a sandwich stand, the offer equated to riches beyond her wildest dreams.
Little did Karla know that her nine-month-old daughter, Camila, was wanted for more than photographic poses in the Mexican city of Guadalajara.
Instead, she was left for weeks at a time with an Irish couple at a hotel in nearby Ajijic who believed they were about to complete the process to adopt little Camila.
The scam is just typical of the stories that have emerged since Mexican police smashed the illegal adoption ring and questioned 11 Irish parents caught up in the nightmare scenario.
Local officials have told Fox News how Karla was just one of many desperately poor mothers lured into the sordid trade by the gang who are now under investigation.
Already, Camila and nine other children have been turned over to state officials who suspect they were being groomed for illegal adoptions and the authorities fear that far more children could be involved in a scam that has been ongoing for 20 years.
Lead investigator Blanca Barron told reporters that nine people have been detained while four of the children may have been victims of sexual abuse, though authorities gave no details on how or by whom.
The Associated Press reports that for Karla Zepeda, the story began in August, when she was approached by Guadalupe Bosquez and agreed to lend her daughter for an anti-abortion advertising campaign.
Bosquez then returned with another woman, Silvia Soto, and gave her half the money as they picked the child up. Karla received the balance of the cash two weeks later when they brought Camila home.
“They showed me a poster that showed my girl with other babies and said ‘No To Abortion, Yes To Life,”‘ said Karla. “I thought it was legal because everything seemed very normal.”
Within days, seven other mothers in the area, most between the ages of 15 and 22, agreed to let their babies be part of the ad campaign, all of them desperate for the money on offer.
“We’re going through a nightmare,” said Fernanda Montes, an 18-year-old housewife received $670 to pay a hospital bill from the birth of her three-month-old. “How could we have trusted someone so evil?”
The women told AP that Bosquez and Soto persuaded three of them to register their children as single mothers so they could participate in the anti-abortion campaign, even though they live with the children’s fathers.
Mexican children’s rights activists believe that that could also have made it easier to release the child for adoption: only the mother’s signature would be needed.
The children were then taken to a hotel in Guadalajara where they met with Irish couples who believed they were going to adopt them.
Police became aware of the scam on January 9th when 21-year-old Laura Carranza was accused her of trying to sell her 2-year-old daughter by her sister-in-law.
Carranza denied that allegation but acknowledged she was ‘renting’ her 8-month-old son and led the authorities to Bosquez and Soto.
Residents of Ajijic, a town on the shore of Lake Chapala favored by American and Canadian retirees, told AP that Irish citizens looking to adopt Mexican children began appearing there at least four years ago.
The Irish couples are now back home and none have been charged with a crime.
Ireland’s Minister for Children, Frances FitzGerald, said: “Obviously, for any couple caught up in this, it’s a nightmare scenario.
“What you can’t have in Mexico is people going to local agencies or individuals doing private adoptions because they come back, there is going to be a difficulty.”