PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A U.S. citizen and her Haitian mother face child-trafficking charges after they were caught carrying thousands of dollars in cash and running an adoption agency without a license, a Haitian official said Tuesday.
Judge Borgella Shoute said Farah Marlin and Yrose Pressoir were stopped last Wednesday by police with Haiti's child protection unit after they had just left the Hotel Karibe, a high-end hotel popular with foreigners.
The mother and daughter had just handed over two children, ages 3 and 4, to someone at the hotel in exchange for $20,000 in cash, Shoute said. They also run an orphanage but its accreditation expired in 2010, she said.
"Police were contacted, and they were ready to make the arrest," she said.
While reading over the file in her office, Shoute said it was unclear from the paperwork who received the children, who she said were taken into custody by the government's child welfare agency.
Authorities haven't said where Marlin lives in the United States.
Defense lawyer Michel Ange Asse said the two women are innocent. He said they collected the money to organize an adoption for an American couple.
"It was just a meeting with the future parents," he said. "They accepted the money for the adoption."
He said the orphanage is registered with the government as is an adoption agency they also run.
After meeting with the two women and their attorneys, Shoute said she plans to order Marlin and Pressoir held in prison while their case goes before an investigative judge, who will decide if the two will be formally charged.
An estimated 50,000 children in Haiti live in orphanages, in part because many parents give up children they can't afford to take care of. Many of the orphanages are poorly run and have little oversight, and an untold number are suspected of being involved in child trafficking.
The United Nations Children Agency recently estimated that at least 2,000 Haitian children were smuggled across the border into the Dominican Republic in 2009.