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Illness keeps adoption scammer out of prison. Carmel woman gets home detention for bilking 6 couples out of $100,000

October 16, 2006, 0:00 4820 Author: Vic Ryckaert indystar.com

By Vic Ryckaert

vic.ryckaert[at]indystar.com

The Carmel woman behind a $100,000 baby adoption scam will not go to prison, a judge ruled Monday.

An ailing Victoria Farahan, who in June pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud, could have faced up to 20 years in prison for each offense. But U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney ruled her myriad health problems pose an "extraordinary physical impairment" that cannot be adequately cared for in prison.

Instead, McKinney sentenced Farahan, 42, to two years of home detention Monday for stealing from six couples she falsely promised to assist in adopting children from Russia.

"Mrs. Farahan is by far not the typical defendant," her lawyer, Richard Kammen, said during her sentencing hearing Monday in McKinney's court. "She has a serious, chronic illness that predates this offense and will continue for the rest of her life."

Three doctors -- hematologist Anne Greist, pulmonary specialist Roger Eagan and psychiatrist Dmitri Arbuck -- testified that Farahan has lupus, a lung disease and other ailments that require constant care. Sending her to prison, the doctors testified, would put her life in danger.

Arbuck, who specializes in pain management, said sending Farahan to prison would amount to a "death sentence."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina McKee offered a letter from the federal prison system in which the government said it could provide for Farahan's medical needs.

Farahan will serve five years of probation and must finish paying back money to her victims. She has repaid all but $7,718 of her nearly $100,000 in restitution. She also must pay a $2,000 fine.

Two of her victims were in court but declined to be interviewed. Their names and the written statements they gave the court have been sealed. After the verdict, they huddled with loved ones in a corner of the courtroom and wiped tears from their cheeks.

"I just don't think it's fair," said Lola Hoskins, the grandmother of one of Farahan's victims. "I hope all young couples" go through attorneys to adopt.

On the other side of the gallery, about 20 of Farahan's friends and family smiled and embraced after the verdict.

"I love you, Mommy," one of Farahan's daughters said.

McKee, the federal prosecutor, argued that society demands severe punishment for this kind of emotional fraud.

"She can't fix it by paying them the money back," McKee said in court. "The community will not tolerate the kind of hurtful, greedy crime this defendant chose to commit."

Farahan, records show, convinced the victims that she was working with an adoption service to find homes for 10 Russian orphans. She provided couples with photos of children during a meeting in August 2005. One of the pictures was of her own daughter, prosecutors say, taken when the child was an infant.

Adoptions of Russian children are common in the United States. The U.S. State Department issued visas to more than 4,600 Russian orphans during the 2005 federal budget year, second only to the number from China.

Farahan accepted $15,000 each from five of the couples and $22,500 from the sixth, who planned to adopt twins, records show. But no adoptions were completed. Records show she repaid the money after the FBI began questioning her.

Farahan, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Dec. 2, 1963, is a U.S. citizen and speaks fluent English. In 1990, she served as an interpreter for Olga Korbut when the Olympic gymnast visited Indianapolis to pick up donated medicines for survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Call Star reporter Vic Ryckaert at (317) 444-2761.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2006 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved

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