So Long, And Thanks for All the Cash:
AMREX Inc. Stiffs Agencies The Way Agencies Stiff Clients
The following is a letter sent to Building Blocks Adoption Service, Inc. Russian clients prior to Amrex, Inc’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing.
16 days after this was written and sent, Amrex filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
September 5, 2006
As some of you know, our legal representative traveled to Georgia and participated in extensive discussions with our Russian representatives concerning the Building Blocks Adoption adoptive families awaiting children from Russia.
The information that he received indicated that adoptions in Russia will continue to move at a very slow pace. The issues surround the accreditation and registration of agencies to operate in Russia. The Russian government is of the opinion that adoptions are best accomplished through accredited agencies. The reason is that the risk of the lost of the accreditation by the agency will be incentive to accomplish the completion of the post placement reports.
The problem is that there has been no entity that has taken the lead for the accreditation of agencies. As a result, an ever increasing number of agencies have had their accreditations expired, have submitted applications for extensions but have not had any rulings on that status. The accredited agency working with our representatives is one of those for which the accreditation has expired and for which no response is yet made to the application for re-accreditation.
As a result, the other alternative available to many of the families is to continue to attempt to complete the adoption through what is called an “independent adoption”. This would require that the families may be only indication of the authority for the adoption on the application to the ministries in Russia.
Although this process is legal in Russia, it is not highly accepted due to the issues with respect to the post placement supervision. Therefore, it is felt that although legal, the independent adoptions are now not widely accepted. With this, the agents feel that it is necessary to scatter the adoptions so that not too many independent adoptions are requested at any one point in time. This has slowed down the process tremendously.
Therefore, it is our legal representative’s assessment that adoptions in Russia will not move at a quick pace until a position on the re-accreditation is taken. It is anticipated that this position will be taken with the meetings that will b e held at the end of September, beginning of October 2006. As a result, I believe that we will have a firm update on the Russian adoption the end of October, 2006. I also, therefore, believe that there will be little or no movement for families seeking a first trip until a more firm stance is taken on accreditation.
There are two outcomes from the decision making. The first is that with an absence of re-accreditation, it will be permitted and more widely recognized to process independent adoptions. The second is that they would chose to re-accredit agencies and will provide a time line for such re-accreditation.
The agents in Russia request that there not be a lot of discussion concerning independent adoptions on the internet and in chat groups as it is not held in favor by most of the government officials. Therefore, we ask you to hold tight for a period of time and not push the potential issue of independent adoptions until we have received confirmation on the next step of accreditation vs. independent adoptions.
For once, we cannot fault Denise Hubbard for her abuse of the English language. Much of this letter appears to have been written by a native Russian speaker. Denise may have received most or all of it in an email from Amrex and simply copied, clipped and pasted it into a letter.
Had BBAS’s “legal representative” (i.e. Richard J. Marco Jr.) actually traveled to Georgia? If did, where had the meeting taken place? In Sergey Zasyatkin’s $549,900 home? At Marina Zakharova’s $799,900 home, furnished to the tilt in SlavoTrash style, with ample plates of caviar, cucumbers and other zakurski?
If Rick were in Georgia, having a bona fide meeting with “the representatives”, did he have any idea how close Amrex was to filing bankruptcy? Did the Amrex operatives give any hints they were in serious financial trouble?
We believe the bankruptcy filing came as somewhat of a surprise to BBAS, yet not a total shock. Whoever is heading BBAS Russian program (it’s not Wendy Stamper any longer – thank God in Heaven) sure has a huge amount on her plate. During 2006 under BBAS “Russian Program” a curious sentence stated:
BLIND TRIPS ARE BECOMING MORE RELIABLE WHEN CHOOSING YOUR FOREVER CHILD. Email Jill to find out more about blind trips: firstname.lastname@example.org
Through another source we obtained a January 2006 BBAS update, sent to Guatemalan clients. Under “New Staff” was the following:
Jill McVay – Adoptive Mom of a beautiful girl from Bulgaria. She is one of our new support staff team members. You will be getting emails from Jill to alert you that your documents have arrived. If you need documentation or have questions on the arrival of your dossier/document etc you can email Jill at email@example.com
It’s true. Jill McVay adopted from Bulgaria with BBAS right around the same time we did. Yet another “Adoptive Mom” helping out Arch Liar Denise with her schemes.
By whatever means she got the job of BBAS Russian “Adoption Specialist” we pity her. We pray she is not currently soliciting new Russian clients – as of now, Building Blocks has no Russian adoption program remaining. Then again, what else would you expect from a blind, deaf and dumb BBAS apparatchik. We hope that, as we write this in June 2007, Jill is not working as BBAS Russian expert.
Yet in 2007, the above was removed from BBAS website under its Russian program. The link was changed too: http://18.104.22.168/article/item-a72d2dd4-2519-49f9-b5d2-9cb7c4c753b3.aspx They are now claiming:
BBAS completes Russia
adoptions through a network of accredited adoption resources and through others
to provide a diverse adoption program that spans Russia and other independent
regions within the old Soviet Union...Once you arrive in Russia you will be met
by a representative of the Building Blocks network member...Agencies are
awaiting accreditation to process adoptions through Russia. At this time
families are completing dossiers in order to be prepared to start the process
once the accreditation process is complete. Many children are waiting
and families are becoming prepared!
We are not positive Building Blocks has a "network member". Chances are they don't. If they do, more fool the PAPs who sign on with Building Blocks for Russia. Don't say we didn't warn you.
On Oct. 30, Rick notified the bankruptcy court in Atlanta that he would be representing Building Blocks. Two weeks later, a “Disclosure Statement for Plan of Reorganization” was filed by Amrex’s attorneys, Rex Cornelison and J. Andrew Ziolo with the federal bankruptcy court in Atlanta. It’s a 96 page document. Of note was “Exhibit ‘B’: Amrex, Inc. Status Reports Adoptions in Progress.” This Exhibit listed most of Amrex’s agenies and the progress of those agency’s clients. We found Building Blocks status report.
Amrex listed 11 Russian and one Kazakhstan client, from November 11, 2004 to April 28, 2006. The families’ names were not listed. Some of the “Notes” were cryptic. Most were “Blind Travel”. Others had statements, “Docs in Kursk. Docs in Moscow.” “Waiting for accreditation or acceptance of indy adoptions – Primorye, Samara.” The most cryptic was “Court on 10/31/06. Traveled on their own (paid the rep themselves).” And “Blind to Asktrakhan (lost commitment).”
Noticeably missing were amounts paid to Amrex from Building Blocks. It illustrated BBAS’s greatly reduced Russian program. An example of why Denise pushed her Guatemalan program to the max. Yet, we are not 100% certain Denise didn’t actively skim funds from her Amrex clients too. Either way, there was visible money to be harvested from each and every new client Denise Hubbard signs up with BBAS.
To those 12 Amrex clients, Denise must have been in overdrive, giving every excuse in her book seven times a day to each and every one of them. In order to keep them thinking their adoptions were pending, Denise probably had them collecting useless documents for Notarization, Certification and Apostilling. We imagine them spending money, time and effort gathering useless documents “for the judge” and “the reps”. While all the while their adoptions were either stalled or not happening. Some clients’ dossiers may never have been sent to Russia after it had been sent to Atlanta for processing.
The letter itself is a mess. If it was meant to clarify and comfort the 12 BBAS Amrex clients, it failed. Instead, it obfuscated. Yes you can do independent adoptions; but no, you can’t because it would cause a slowdown. Independent adoptions are bad because those who adopt independently do not supply Post Placement Reports to the Russian government. You need to wait for the unidentified “Accredited agency” to receive its re-accreditation. Although they’re not mentioning the name of that agency, for the record, it’s Beacon House Adoption Services, Inc. The you-can-you-can’t references to independent adoption are interesting. The true source for independent adoption in Russia is the attorney Irina O’Rear. We have gone into much detail regarding Irina O’Rear and how she helped The Towells out with their adoptions.
Irina O’Rear helped many stranded Amrex families since the Towells. This did not set well at Amrex in Russia or Atlanta. Amrex turned around and slandered her to its agencies. Client of some Amrex agencies were told never to use Irina O’Rear because she wasn’t a real attorney, she would screw up their adoptions, she herself had a failed Russian adoption. Persons associated with Amrex tried to smear her with a free-hosted website on geocities describing the failed adoption of a young woman in May 2005. The geocities website was taken down.
Although Amrex filed for bankruptcy, mudslinging against its main enemy, Irina O’Rear continued. Various Amrex agency clients and other AParents received a link to another incarnation of this website in unsolicited emails. It is exactly the same site, on another free server. Curiously, these emails originated from various points in the United States. One was from an AOL account – firstname.lastname@example.org. The other emails originated from IP addresses in Pensacola, Florida (home of a Beacon House office) and from Zoom Internet, an Armstrong Cable subsidiary in ... MEDINA, OHIO.
It is difficult to not directly accuse Denise Hubbard of wrong doing. Yet, we’ve created a strong case she participates in under-handed activities to keep herself in business. Therefore, it is in the realm of possibility Denise did email nasty things about Irina O’Rear after Amrex declared bankruptcy. The amount of money Denise lost from clients because of the debacle must have been more than the $200,000 Amrex owed the agency.
On April 16, 2007 we received concrete evidence Denise Hubbard has a Zoom Internet email account. We direct your attention to the following email, sent out to Denise’s clients. It’s offensive on many levels (begging for cash for her son’s high school fundraiser for the ORPHANS IN GUATEMALA while the family is living in a $300,000 house in Ohio):
Sent: Monday, April 16, 2007 6:13 PM
I have been ask to pass the below on to you. We have been approached by the Interact Club to assist with a project they are completing. They hope to raise enough funds to purchase and build at least one swing set or play gym for an orphanage in Guatemala . They are hosting a dinner fundraiser on May 12th. If you would like to buy tickets to attend please let me know. If you merely want to donate for the cause you can do so by completing a check payable to the MHS Interact Club and send to 52 public Sq, Medina , Ohio 44256 . Any questions please contact myself at email@example.com
What is Interact? Interact is a service club for High School students interested in helping others. Interact exists in 110 countries with almost 200,000 members and more than 8,600 clubs worldwide. Interact is a great way to meet people and make friends.
What has Interact done this year? Being a new club to Medina High School we have done a lot. We have worked with the Salvation Army and their Project M.U.N.C.H and Homework Help programs, as well as ring the bell during the Christmas holiday. Interact has also helped Hospice, in their ornament sale at the mall. We also have helped the two Rotary clubs in their service projects such as the County Home Christmas party and the annual Wine and Rose event. The board members have continued their education in Rotary by attending the Rotary District Assembly, and are always looking for new ways to improve the club.
What are we doing currently? Currently Medina High Schools Interact club is working on their international project, Goal for Guatemala . It is a dinner at Rustic Hills Country Club to benefit the Orphanages in Guatemala who need swing sets. The dinner costs $25 a person and presentation will be given by an adoptive parent, adoption professional and others, along with some type of raffle.
Other than guilt-tripping fund strapped clients for yet another “fund raiser” (we go into further detail in another chapter on that), Denise reveals her Zoom Internet email address.
Coincidence? Or Guilt by association? We know how we feel.
By the time BBAS sent its letter, it was obvious to any Amrex client agency Beacon House’s unaccredited status was harming their adoptions. What was not known to most Amrex agency clients was the fact Marina Zakharova’s mother, Galina Bondarekno acted as Beacon House’s Representative in Moscow. Beacon House is nothing but a front for Amrex in Moscow– which itself was not a company registered in Russia.
We have it from a good source Valiko Meunargia, Amrex's man on the ground in Moscow for many years, is now Beacon House's representative.
You will notice the letter ends with the usual caution against loose talk on the Internet. Apparently the usual “foreign officials” are leery of this. It’s not the foreign reps, it’s the agencies in the United States themselves who fear the power of the Internet.
When either a Russian or Kazakh client signed on with BBAS for an adoption, they were led to believe BBAS itself worked in “40 regions of Russia.” This sounded really great. Wendy Stamper, when she worked for BBAS, used that line on unsuspecting clients. She made it seem as if BBAS itself had the contacts in each of those 40 regions of Russia. Most clients, when approaching BBAS, didn’t do their homework. They didn’t understand the accreditation and umbrellaing issues. Of course, at the time, Wendy Stamper didn’t bother to fully inform the clients-to-be that BBAS was not accredited and used Beacon House Adoption Services, Inc’s accreditation.
A client signed the gagging BBAS contract sight unseen, believing BBAS had clout, integrity and proper connections in Russia and Kazakhstan (Guatemala too – the latest contract covers all BBAS programs). Only after their dossier was submitted to BBAS did they received a contract to sign with – Beacon House Adoption Services, Inc. By then, they were in too deep, having spent a few thousand dollars on paperwork and BBAS agency fees, to fully appreciate that BBAS was nothing more than a paper-pushing, money-grubbing intermediary.
The Beacon House contract is http://www.frontiernet.net/~dancase/PPR%20and%20Beacon%20House%20contract.htm
Remember, a BBAS client signed this Beacon House monstrosity AFTER their dossier was submitted to BBAS. We modified the layout of the contract to make it easier to read. We have also highlighted a few aspects of it.
What’s galling about this contract is the admonition to not contact Beacon House directly or the foreign reps after the adoption is completed. The “Stay off the Internet” and “Do not let anybody see this secret document” language is also present. We wonder if Anne Hughes, Beacon House’s director, is going to go after us for posting this on our website. Either way, it’s now seeing the light of day – Confidentiality clause be damned. The adopting public has a right to know.
Beacon House was the agency with the connections in Russia, as the contract makes that perfectly clear. Building Blocks just collected and cashed checks – and protected themselves against any further screw ups on their part.
The most infuriating document unsuspecting BBAS Amrex clients were required to sign was the “Notification of Postplacement Fee Payment.” This was required AFTER the BBAS contract and the Beacon House-as-your-umbrella-in-Russia contract. Once again, we have re-written the document for clarity.
One thing stands out: those Russian Post Placement fees have sure increased over the years. They went from $800 in 2001/2002 to $2,000 – PRE PAID to Building Blocks Adoption Service, Inc. Only when the Post Placement Agreement is presented does a client see the Amrex’s name and role: “This letter is to inform you that Building Blocks Adoption Service, Inc. has contracted with Amrex for your adoption services.” We can imagine most green PAPs are thrown for a loop with the mere mention of “Amrex”.
We asked other Amrex agency clients if this $2,000 is the norm for pre-paid post placement fees. Most said $2,000 was the norm. Most also said the checks had to be paid to their agency – not Amrex. $2,000 is a hunk of change to prepay after incurring other expenses with Russian and Kazakh adoptions. There is scant comfort knowing their $2,000 would be returned “By Amrex to BBAS in $400 increments” over a three- year period.
This is where Amrex fouled up. Clients of many agencies, after their adoptions were completed and their Post Placement Reports sent to their agencies, were NOT RECEIVING the $400 refund per Post Placement Report. Amrex consistently and across the board failed to refund the client’s fees which they were contractually obligated to do. This has angered many families and become a bone of contention with the bankruptcy – where did those PRE PAID post placement fees go? Why were they not being refunded as per the contract?
To be fair, some Amrex agencies paid the clients their Post Placement Fees out of their own expenses. The chickens were coming home to roost for the ones that relied on Amrex.
Is Denise concerned about recovering Building Blocks’ own funds from Amrex and refunding her clients? What is she doing to help clients in this difficult situation? Offering to change them to Guatemala? You know by now if refunds are being offered to any Amrex client, Rick Marco will be having them sign a confidentiality clause 10 times worse than their contract and 50 times worse than the confidentiality agreement foisted upon us and Janet Ostrander
We do know one client who re-did their dossier three times and found out their dossier was never placed in a particular region in Russia. They had received a "referral" for a little girl - video, picture, medical. The child had never been legally available for adoption. Where had the Amrex reps obtained the child's information, then? This client asked BBAS if they could change countries, but BBAS refused. They were offered a $8,000 refund with an awful confidentiality agreement foisted upon them. We do not know if they signed the agreement, retained a less costly attorney or just faded away.
$8,000 - what a pitiful refund after waiting for nearly two years and getting the run-around from these "professionals."
Any refunds the Amrex clients receive will come straight out of the pockets of BBAS Guatemalan clients. BBAS isn’t just an “adoption agency”. It’s Denise Hubbard and Richard J. Marco Jr’s private, unregulated piggy bank. With all of the padded funds the Guatemalan clients are paying, they won’t miss the money because nobody knows where it all ends up - or in who's pocket.
One brave Russia client did report their sitaution to the ODJFS. They were the Sterns from California. The Sterns complaint was included in the ODJFS recertification packet we received in February 2007. They were fortunate - they may have received monies BEFORE Amrex went bankrupt for their complaint was filed in late August of 2006. We have included a copy here.
We know of one BBAS family who filed directly with the Bankruptcy Court in Atlanta - their names are on the court document.
We also know in early 2007 one of BBAS former Amrex clients spoke to the FBI about their experience. We are waiting, along with many others, the extent of the FBI investigation and what effect it will have on all Amrex agencies.
Stay tuned. This entire situation is still going on.