'Twisted and sick deceit’: Macomb County woman sentenced to 10 years in prison for adoption fraud scheme

‘She is the ultimate manipulating con artist,’ a victim said

A Macomb County woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for an adoption fraud scheme.

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – A Macomb County woman was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison on charges of wire fraud in connection to an adoption fraud scheme.

Before her sentence was handed down Tara Lynn Lee sat and listened to 20 victims share their grief with the court. Most said they trusted her and believed she was going to help them.

Lee, 38, of New Haven was ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution and forfeit nearly $300,000. According to court, records Lee operated under the name Always Hope Pregnancy and Education Center. Lee and her phony organization were not licensed by the state of Michigan to facilitate adoptions or match birth mothers to adoptive families.

“She is the ultimate, manipulating con artist. She makes you believe she cares. I believed her. She was good and that’s what’s so scary. That’s the scary part. I hook lined and sinker fell for it,” victim Kate Garassino Odriscoll said.

From 2014 to 2018, Lee paired birth mothers with adoptive parents. She represented herself to adoptive parents as a licensed social worker with a real adoption agency, according to officials. Officials said Lee admitted to matching more than one set of adoptive parents to a birth mother. Other times, Lee would match adoptive parents to a birth mother that didn’t exist, was not pregnant, or had decided not to place their child up for adoption. In those cases she still requested and received payment.

“This case is heartbreaking. Defendant Lee ruthlessly conned parents who were hoping to adopt the precious gift of life,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “Lee literally stole the dreams of people who wanted to become moms and dads. And she used the profits from those stolen dreams to buy high-end jewelry and luxuries for herself. Such a twisted and sick deceit of these innocent victims deserves this appropriate sentence in federal prison.”

"The sentence imposed on Ms. Lee is a reflection of the devastating consequences her behavior has had on expectant mothers, adoptive parents, and families across the country. The victims have been robbed of much more than their money and it is our hope that the resolution of this case brings them a measure of peace,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono. “The agents and prosecutors who worked diligently on this case should be commended for their commitment holding Ms. Lee accountable for her indefensible and egregious actions.”

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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.