The United States government imposed sanctions on four Ugandans who were implicated in a fake adoption scam, the U.S. Treasury announced on Tuesday.
The four Ugandans are two judges, Moses Mukiibi and Wilson Musalu Musene; a lawyer, Dorah Mirembe, and her husband, Patrick Ecobu.
“… all property and interests in property of the individuals named above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.
According to the U.S. Treasury, the four were involved in a scam where, in some cases, young children were removed from Ugandan families under promises for special education programs and study in the United States but were then offered to American families for adoption.
“Further, Mirembe’s law firm at times hired or used the services of intermediary parties to seek out vulnerable families in remote Ugandan villages to manipulate parents — who often could not read or write English — into giving their children up for adoption under false pretenses,” a statement from the Treasury read in part.
Once taken, many of the children were then placed primarily into an unlicensed children’s home in the capital, Kampala, and made to appear before courts as orphans.
They would then be offered to unsuspecting potential Americans to adopt them and take them to the United States.
“In order to arrange the adoption of the children, Mirembe, with the assistance of Ecobu, facilitated multiple bribes to Ugandan judges Mukiibi, Musene, and other Ugandan government officials, either directly or through an interlocutor.”
The Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin Muzinich said that the scam “deliberately exploited the good faith of Ugandans and Americans to enrich themselves.”
Reacting to the sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: We must protect children from victimization and promote accountability of foreign government officials involved in corruption.”