Chapter Fifty-Eight


Busted in Bulgaria

(With a little help from the Cases)

“Come on down, the devil’s in town

He’s brought you sticks and stones to bust your neighbor’s bones

He’s stuck his missiles in your gardens

And his theories down your throat

And God knows what you’re going to do with it

‘Cause I certainly don’t”

-Matt Johnson

       On April 12, 2001, we received  this email from the director of the “Alaska agency,” Adopt An Angel:

Hi, how are you?  I am sorry for what happened in Russia to you.  That is so sad. 

The reason that I am curious about BB is because they kept saying that my agency was the reason why their clients couldn’t go pick up their children.  It’s kind of funny since my clients were picking up their children.  It was a complete lie.  Thanks for listening.

    Denise’s reputation and words were coming back to haunt her.

    This is not, as the alert reader will realize, the first time she’s trashed another agency to distract attention from the failures and misconduct of her own. EAC, of course, was subject to the same treatment in the form of a nonexistent lawsuit supposedly brought by Denise.

    But it also reminded of us of an email exchange we had back in early 2000, with Dellory Matthews, then public relations director for Focus on Children (a Wyoming-based agency forced by its own incompetence and  lack of preparation for the March 2000 rule changes to start working with Amrex after clients had been waiting well over a year to bring children home) told Daniel in another now-lost email that BBAS had been spreading innuendo about her agency’s Vladivostok program.

    Denise was reportedly telling prospective clients that FOC could charge less for an adoption from the same orphanage because they paid their facilitators so poorly. “In reality,” Matthews claimed, “their facilitator is just jealous of our facilitator’s connections.”

    Since BBAS’s Vladivostok program was subsumed into Amrex’s operations when Russia changed its ways, we never heard more about this and presumably the dispute is moot.

    Back to the present. By the middle of April 2001, continuing reports about Burgas and illegal dealings were beginning to filter out of Bulgaria. 

    A client of Adopt An Angel sent us a link to a story in the Bulgarian newspaper Standart, which was then picked up and translated on Bulgaria Online.

    Much, much more was to follow regarding Burgas, Kurjali and Buzovgrad and most tellingly, Valeri Kamenov and how all of these entities are interrelated (not that we have ever found any hard, evidential facts to link them together yet …but …):

    This was sent to us on April 19, 2001. We can’t vouch for the accuracy of this, and the translation could be better, but it was troublesome nonetheless. 

    The Director of Mother and Child Home in Bourgas, Dr. Zhivka Sabrutova has sold 20 kids to aliens last year.  The tariff was US $40,000 per child.  This is what a source from the regional division of the Security National Service communicated.  The Doctor was acting through a private, unlicensed company.  The investigator Ivo Dobrev [we don’t think this is any relation to Dobrev, BBAS’s Bulgarian attorney in Sofia] has already completed his inspection.  Dr. Sabroutova was charged for a crime on working place.  The sentence would be up to 8 years of prison and taking off physician’s rights.

    The adoptive parents to be paid the huge amounts and signed the papers in the Bulgarian language.  They never suspected they were defrauded.  The aliens were convinced that these were the relevant costs for an adoptive child under our laws.  The whole procedure in our country costs a total of 1,000 Leva.  The last who signs the decree for releasing from citizenship is the President.  The tariff for Denmark, Italy and USA is higher.  “We gave 60 children to aliens last year. I don’t have any violations.  Whoever thinks I do is supposed to prove this!” Dr. Sabroutova stated. 

    The scandal with the trafficking of children from the orphanages burst out in February, after an attempt to export 3 minor children out of Montana [an orphanage and city in Bulgaria – not the US state of the same name].

    The materials from the inspection in Burgas have already been sent to Sofia.  Other orphanages in the country are being investigated as well.

    Our goodly Dr. Sabrutova was being hung out to dry. But were these allegations true? Was she pocketing money? We seriously believed it, but not in the amounts being reported in the Bulgarian media.

   It appears that the reporter had no understanding of the American adoption process, or of the real expenses involved for us to adopt Bulgarian children. Was this what Denise Hubbard had meant when she said that the Bulgarian process would be just like the Russian process in a few years?

    Suddenly, on May 30, 2001, we were sent a startling bit of evidence that the bomb we had dropped on the Minister of Justice regarding our dealings with BBAS had hit its mark. 

   A friendly translator in Bulgaria emailed us a translation of a story from the Bulgarian newspaper Novinar (“News”) that had appeared in the original the previous day.

    BBAS, Valeri Kamenov and Daniel and Elizabeth Case were mentioned by name. (The language is as translated, so that’s why it may read a little oddly to native English speakers).

The National Investigation Service Intersected A Child Traffic Channel

    An officer from the military counter-intelligence has sold out abroad dozens of
children from the orphanages in Burgas, Karjali and Kazanlak [Buzovgrad], an investigation of Novinar has found out.

    The Capital Investigation Service has filed a lawsuit # 98/2001 against the
directors of the social establishments. Yesterday Sofia District Court removed
them from office, with view to not prevent the investigation. The organizer of
the network is the former Lt. Colonel from the military counter-intelligence,
Valeri Kamenov, who was the representative of the US agency BBAS. Upon the
search in his home, currency for 800,000 Bulgarian leva (about $ 400,000),
furniture for 650 thousand leva and 5 automobiles were found out. Kamenov
refused to provide explanation about the origin of the money.

    For each child adopted, a commission of $15-20 k has been taken, the
investigation of the National Investigation Service found out. Almost all of the
children had been sent to the USA.  Each child must receive 3 written 'decline-to-adopt' declarations saying that Bulgarian families do not want him, to be made available for international adoption. The directors collected the declarations without showing the orphans, saying that only sick and injured children have remained at the orphanage.
The Mediators Were Getting $15-20K Out of Each Adoption
    The prosecutor's ruling was based on an elaboration completed by the National
Investigation Service (NIS). It was assigned by the Supreme Cassation
Prosecutor's Service (SCPS) and it was under the personal observation of the
Chief Prosecutor Nikola Filchev.

    The reason for this elaboration has nothing to do with publications in the
press, the officer from the security services was categorical before Novinar.
The network disentangling started on April 7 1999 with a fax received at SCPS
from a German journalist. He [was] alarmed about an investigation completed by the
City Prosecutor's Office concerning trading of minor children.

    The German journalist Edmond Koch located an Internet address of a mediating
company and stated his will to adopt a Bulgarian child. He even came to
Bulgaria. The lawyer O’Brian, who is a representative of the mediating company
BBAS in USA, fell into the trap. Along with her, the police arrested the American resident alien of Bulgarian origin Anna-Maria Velcheva Gromann, and her
husband Dr. Oliver Gromann. The report made with a hidden camera was aired by the Munich TV channel PRO 7.   The case was widely published by the local mass media.

    Upon the search in O’Brian’s computer, information about bargains with children was discovered. She admitted to the police, that 15-20 thousands of dollars from each adoption were going to the accessories in Bulgaria. The leading figure there was someone with General's rank.

    As a result of the operative elaboration of NIS it was found out, that the word
is about Valeri Kamenov, 47 years old, born in Vidin, a former officer from the
military counter-intelligence. Upon Kamenov's arrest, currency in cash, furniture and five automobiles were found in his home, at the total value of over 1 million German marks. Kamenov was released against a bail of 20,000 leva, which he paid right away.

    NIS has found out, that Kamenov has been associated with Zhivka Sabrutova,
Yordanka Gospodinova and Ivelina Panova. After they appealed before the court,  they paid bails only of 3,000 leva for each, instead of the originally required 5,000.

    The paperwork kept in the orphanages was formally perfect, the cops found out. According to the Family Code, and Regulation # 17, of the Minister of Justice, a Bulgarian child may be adopted by aliens only if he has turned 1 year of age and there are at least three 'decline-to-adopt' declarations from Bulgarian families, after he has been seen by them. Then, the Minister of Health offers to his colleague at the Justice to grant consent for the adoption. The last word belongs mandatorily and solely to Sofia District Court.

    According to the statistics, 4,000 Bulgarian families are waiting to adopt a
child. But when some of them were visiting the mentioned orphanages, they have been told that only sick, injured, or minority children have remained there.
Without to be granted with the opportunity to see them, they were asked in a
persistent manner to sign the 'decline-to-adopt' declaration to take some of
these children.

    It has been found out, that the healthy children have been raised under special
conditions and separated from the others. The second law infringement on the part of the directors, that they have provided information to the mediators who prepared catalogues with pictures and data. The aliens have been told, that huge State fees have to be paid in Bulgaria.

    The arrested in Munich, O’Brian, has quoted on the behalf of BBAS (Building
Block Adoption Service) a price list with the following fees:
- Filing an application - 275 $
      - Program fee 3,000 $
      - Identification fee - 1,500 $
      - Bulgarian program fee (?!) - 12,000 $
      - Escort - the real costs incurred
      - Document fees - 680 $

    There were additional fees, too: Orphanage attendance, postal fees, fees for
re-adoption and finalization, fees for American lawyers, immigration fees,
translation of child's documents, travel costs of parents and children,
confirming the authenticity of the documents, standard medical tests upon
arrival in USA.

    There was one more complaint against the mentioned company BBAS. In a letter to the Minster of Justice, Teodosiy Simeonov, the American family Daniel and
Elizabeth Case have filed a complaint with regard to the procedure, according to
which they adopted a Bulgarian child.

    The media have been ma[king] noise about the necessity of a transparent  mechanism,  the need of Adoption Agenc[ies] and creating new texts in the Criminal Code concerning child trafficking. The latter needs only a suggestion from the Ministers of Health and Justice. No matter what the composition of the next Parliament is going to be, it is supposed that a consensus can be achieved quickly and easily. The lack of legislative initiative for normative solution of the problem logically raises suspicions, to which nobody should feel offended.

   WHOA! I got up that morning and read this with my mouth hanging open. What the…? 

   I had heard allegations that Dr. Sabrutova separated out the “healthy adoptable” children (read Anguel, N, and several other families in the U.S. and elsewhere) from the rest of the orphans in Burgas, but had no proof.  

    We have also been informed that of the “three families” that signed off on these children, many of them were the same three families who may have been friends of Dr. Sabrutova. 

   Also, rumor in Bulgaria had it that back in the late 1990s, Dr. Sabrutova would lie to birthmothers who brought their babies into the orphanage. She would tell them that they could come back in six months to reclaim their babies; but in reality, by that time, they had inadvertently relinquished their rights to them and were too ignorant to fight it. 

   These are strong, sickening allegations, and we really hope they aren’t true. The jury is out.

    We have, however, provided our own translation of the most comprehensive article about the affair that we received from Bulgaria, one that appeared in the newspaper Trud. It has some other interesting, and disturbing, details.

    But what was really interesting about this article was the mention of this “Candace O’Brien” attorney being arrested in Germany in April 1999. For some time, we had been trying to figure out how Denise had originally hooked up with Valeri in Bulgaria.

    She had made mention of “saving” the adoption of the very first Bulgarian child BBAS had placed from Buzovgrad with a family in Louisiana, who still post infrequently to the EEAC list. 

    Both the family in Louisiana and Denise had always been pretty mum on the circumstances, but once Denise let slip to Sue Corrigan that she had gotten a few Bulgarian clients from an attorney who had decided to stop the business. She had told another client something similar.

    Was there a connection here? Was this attorney’s arrest in Bulgaria what got Denise in the door and connected with Valeri in the first place? 

    The article mentioned that Candace O’Brien was arrested in April 1999 — the same month that Denise had begun “exploring” expanding her adoption work into other countries, according to the minutes of BBAS’s board meetings filed with the state of Ohio when her license came up for renewal

    The Bulgarian program was first mentioned in June 1999 and the first children began appearing in late June and early July on their website (Anguel and a few other Burgas and Kurjali inmates were featured).

   The first clients may have been Russian switchovers from Volgograd who were promised the impossible timeline of four to six months. The first family to travel went to Kurjali to visit their children in July 1999 with Richard J. Marco.

   This account was written up in the BBAS August 1999 newsletter, back when Denise was corralling us all in by touting the health of the Bulgarian children and the speediness of the Bulgarian process.

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