Atlanta man pleads guilty to Ethiopian adoption fraud scheme

An Atlanta man who previously ran an adoption agency pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to his role in a scheme involving children from Ethiopia, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

James Harding, 55, admitted that between 2008 and 2009, he and his co-conspirators submitted fraudulent documents to the State Department to facilitate adoptions of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents, according to Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell and U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles of the District of South Carolina. Harding was employed as the international program director for International Adoption Guides Inc. at the time of the crimes.

Harding admitted that he and co-conspirators submitted false documentation, including contracts for adoptions signed by orphanages that could not properly allow the children to be adopted, according to officials. Harding and others paid bribes to Ethiopian officials, including cash and all-expenses-paid travel to a government leader who approved the adoptions, despite not maintaining a properly licensed orphanage.

Sentencing for Harding has not yet been scheduled.

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