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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut couple has been charged with smuggling an infant from Guatemala into the United States.
A federal complaint released Thursday says 42-year old Maria Gonzalez of Stamford and her husband, 36-year-old Henry Fernandez Lopez of Fairfield, brought the infant into the country after making an agreement with the child’s mother who was 14 years old at the time.
The couple is charged with illegally bringing an immigrant into the U.S. and harboring the child, as well as conspiracy to commit those acts.
Gonzalez also is charged with misuse of a U.S. passport and forgery or false use of a passport.
The case may represent the desperate measures that prospective parents are willing to take to adopt children from Guatemala since that country shut down its international adoption program more than five years ago. The country’s quick-stop adoptions had made the nation of 14 million people the world’s second-largest source of babies to the U.S. after China.
But the vibrant business came to a halt after an August 2007 raid on what was considered the country’s most reputable adoption agency, used by many Americans. Guatemala remains closed to inter-country adoption, according to the National Council for Adoption.
Gonzalez revealed to Homeland Security officials in 2012 that she was connected to a pregnant teenager in Guatemala through a former coworker’s mother living there. She said she traveled to Guatemala in March 2009 and met the teenager, accompanied her to a doctor’s visit and arranged to take custody of the child at birth in exchange for paying for the delivery and additional unspecified costs.
The teenager was interviewed by US officials in Guatemala who described her neighborhood as ‘‘poverty-stricken and a high crime area.’’ She revealed that the infant she had given to Gonzalez and Lopez was the result of a rape by a family member. She also confirmed that she had agreed to give her child to Gonzalez but said she had never signed any adoption papers.
Gonzalez said that the doctor in Guatemala had informed her that an adoption could not take place because the birth mother was an orphan and did not have a birth certificate.
After the infant was born, Gonzalez attempted to acquire travel documents for the child from the US embassy in Guatemala City but was refused when she could not prove she was the birth mother. The complaint claims that she then paid a Guatemalan man $6,000 for a fraudulent US passport for the child.
Travel records show that Gonzalez crossed into California with the infant in July 2009 by using the forged passport.
Gonzalez appeared before a district court judge in Bridgeport on Tuesday and was released on $100,000 bail. Authorities are seeking Lopez, a native of Guatemala and a naturalized U.S. citizen who is believed to be traveling to or living in Cuba. He is estranged from Gonzalez, an Argentinian national and legal permanent resident of the United States.
Gonzalez’s attorney, Pat Brown, said it’s too early to speculate on the merits of the charges.
‘‘Please remember that all people are presumed innocent under the law,’’ he said. ‘‘An arrest is only a charge and can legally be done with the slightest of evidence.’’
The child was placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families in October and remains there.