OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma City woman has been sentenced in federal court, accused of running an elaborate adoption scam.
Shelly Renee Henson, 40, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison for mail fraud related to that adoption scam.
She was also ordered to pay $49,361.47 in restitution to the victims.
According to court filings and information from the plea and sentencing hearings, between July 2008 and June 2011, Henson defrauded at least five adoption agencies and law firms and several prospective adoptive parents throughout the United States, including Florida, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Henson would falsely pose as an expectant mother and then approach the adoption agencies and law firms claiming she wanted to place her purported unborn child for adoption.
One of those agencies was Heritage Family Services, Inc. in Tulsa.
Executive Director, Debbie Nomura, said she’s been working in the adoption industry for more than 30 years.
“There are birth moms who will change their mind and decide not to place but never someone who clearly knows she is not pregnant and is still carrying on a scam like this,” Nomura said.
Nomura matched Henson with Sharon Hayes, who believed she was adopting Henson’s baby girl.
“Prayed for her health every day, her physical health, her emotional health and the health of the baby while she ran her scam,” Hayes said.
Not just prayer, Hayes paid thousands of dollars for Henson’s living expenses during the fake pregnancy.
“She was very good at what she did, Hayes said. “In court, they called her a seasoned, seasoned scammer.”
“This woman was using the mails and wire transfers to obtain this money, which is a federal crime,” Sanford Coats said, US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
When completing the “birth mother” applications, Henson often provided false information regarding her personal identification, the conception of a child and the identity of the putative birth father.
Henson also provided fraudulent medical documentation such as pregnancy verifications, sonograms, blood work, laboratory results and other pregnancy-related medical records that she created or altered on her computer.
Prosecutors said they hope this case compels families and agencies to investigate birth moms more diligently.
“We always trust that an ultrasound is her ultrasound and her lab work is her lab work but apparently that was not the case,” Nomura said.
Coats said at least one of the ultrasounds Henson was showing off was actually an image of her grandchild.
He also said after her arrest, Henson admitted she’d undergone a tubal ligation several years before committing this adoption fraud.