DETROIT - A criminal complaint was filed Thursday against Macomb County resident Tara Lynn Lee on suspicion of wire fraud.
Lee, whose home was raided by the FBI in November, was in court Friday to face charges. She is accused of giving adoptive parents false hope and charging fees in the process.
The FBI received information that Lee was facilitating adoptions in Michigan and defrauding adoptive parents by double-matching nonexistent birth mothers with families.
Court documents claim Lee ran her unlicensed adoption agency under multiple names, including Always Hope Pregnancy and Education Center, Always Hope Pregnancy Outreach Center, Always Hope Adoption Pregnancy Center, TL Pregnancy Services and TL Doula Services.
Authorities said Lee is not licensed or affiliated with any licensed adoption agencies and has been investigated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of Children and Adult Licensing and the Child Welfare Licensing Division for numerous regulation violations.
The court documents claim Lee would present herself as a licensed social worker, claiming to have received a master's degree in social work from Northwestern University, despite the college having no record of anyone with her name graduating. Additionally, Northwestern University does not offer a master's degree in social work.
The affidavit claims Lee would be contacted by potential parents, and she would inform them that they had been picked by birth mothers, most of whom didn't exist. Lee would then collect between $10,000 and $33,000 in fees and payments during the alleged pregnancies. On more than one occasion, Lee told two sets of potential parents they were had been picked by the nonexistent birth mother and the two sets made payments on the same fake baby.
In one case, Lee reportedly had two sets of parents, one in Colorado and one in Minnesota, paying for the same baby, and told them the nonexistent mother changed her mind and didn't want to give the baby up for adoption. One couple, who paid $19,000, asked for a refund. Lee gave them $9,000 back and told them the remaining $10,000 had been kept for life coaching during pregnancy, pre-birth counseling, transportation and "expenses."
Lee told the other couple they could put some of the $20,000 they had paid toward another potential pregnancy.
Another family was told in February 2018 it had been chosen to receive a baby from a Detroit woman whom Lee called, at various times, ReShaunda, RaShaunda and RoShaunda. The family was shown a photo of RaShaunda.
The affidavit claims Lee was paid $15,000 by the couple for RaShaunda's baby.
On June 12, 2018, the couple was told RaShaunda had been shot and killed near Sterling Heights and was asked by Lee if they wanted to donate money toward funeral costs. The couple asked about funeral details multiple times and Lee reportedly gave little to no information.
The couple grew suspicious, declined donating to the funeral, requested a refund and were given a check for $8,550.
When questioned by the FBI about who the woman in the photograph of RaShaunda was, Lee said, "That's Shanttelle," before clarifying that "her legal name is RoShaunda."
Lee told the FBI that Shanttelle/RoShaunda had been killed in Inkster or Garden City, although she didn't know where or when.
Investigators said they found a Facebook profile for a woman in Michigan that contained the RaShaunda photograph. The woman told authorities the photo was of her and said she had never been pregnant, had never told anyone she was pregnant, did not know Lee and she had never been shot and killed.
The complaint details seven different families who had set up for adoption and made payments to Lee. Transcripts of phone calls and texts were documented, including a recorded phone call in which Lee told an accomplice, "I'm still committing fraud and you could use it against me, like you did the other day."
The Always Hope website has been taken down for maintenance.
The legitimacy of an adoption agency's license can be checked on the official website for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs here.
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