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Alleged Adoption Fraud in Sale of Baby to Two Couples Probed

Times Staff Writer

A woman who gave birth last week is under investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office for having allegedly offered her then-unborn boy for adoption to two couples in exchange for more than $14,000 in medical and living expenses.

Mary Ann Parker, 27, of Cudahy bore Rodney Parker Jr. at a North Long Beach hospital last Thursday, the day after investigators had executed a search warrant on her apartment.

Parker, hours after being discharged from the hospital with her baby on Saturday, left town with her husband and their four children, according to authorities.

“The whole family hopped on a bus and left,” district attorney’s spokesman Al Albergate said. “She didn’t leave a forwarding address.”

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Parker, a Massachusetts native who moved to the Los Angeles area several months ago, is under investigation for possible grand theft and welfare fraud charges in the case, according to Albergate. No charges have yet been filed, because “we don’t have the case complete,” he added.

Preliminary evidence in a court affidavit made public this week states that two couples reported paying Parker more than $9,500 and $5,000, respectively.

The couples were allegedly told by Parker that, “in exchange for living and prenatal expenses, she would give up her baby . . . for adoption,” district attorney’s investigator Norman L. Hoskins said in the statement filed with the request for the search warrant.

However, “these representations . . . (were) false,” Hoskins’ statement continued, “as each party was paying at the same time, and neither party had knowledge that the other was paying.”

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Living Expenses

Deputy Dist. Atty. James Baker said the act of “baby selling” is illegal, but people hoping to adopt a baby can pay maternity-connected medical and living expenses as a type of gift to a pregnant woman who plans to give up her child for adoption.

The pregnant woman, even if she has agreed to give up the baby for adoption, can subsequently change her mind and decide to keep her baby, Baker said.

In this case, however, Parker allegedly collected money from more than one prospective adopting family, a potential case of theft by false pretense, Baker said.

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Court papers filed by Hoskins state that although no other payments were known to have exchanged hands, “investigation has revealed that suspect Mary Ann Parker has (also) contacted others in regard to their paying expenses in exchange for adoption of the same baby.”

One of the alleged victims, Teri Ockander of Westlake, who reported paying Parker about $5,000, said families hoping to adopt children often take out classified ads in newspapers seeking pregnant women who are planning to part with their babies.

Ockander explained that after having worked for 20 years, she and her husband, Ronald, wanted their own child.

“But the old biological clock is running out,” she said in a telephone interview. “I did the fertility trip for three years, and it didn’t work.”

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Parker, she continued, “was very believable. . . . I took her to the doctor, to the grocery store.

“I did all these things for her, because she was a poor woman who needed our help. I was more than willing to do that,” she said.

In October, according to court records, Parker allegedly threatened to call off the adoption, unless the Ockanders gave her $8,000 more.

Contacted Attorney

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The Ockanders contacted a well-known adoption attorney, David Leavitt, for advice and learned that Parker was also allegedly taking expense payments from a Van Nuys couple. They then contacted authorities.

“You can’t imagine the anguish, when you think you’re going to have a baby,” Ockander said.

She also complained that “the D.A.'s office did a search warrant that tipped her (Parker) off.”

Albergate said investigators, in addition to gathering further evidence on Parker, were concerned last week for health reasons about arresting and jailing a woman who was within days of giving birth. What is more, he said, “if she had had twins on Saturday, she would have had a defense.”

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