- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A California woman faces federal fraud charges in Kansas after prosecutors say she pretended to be pregnant in order to scam prospective adoptive parents.

An indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas charges Chrystal M. Rippey with one count each of wire fraud and mail fraud. Court records do not indicate her age or hometown, and the U.S. attorney’s office declined to release that information.

The indictment alleges Rippey devised a scheme whereby she contacted adoption agencies and individuals who wanted to adopt a child. She pretended to be pregnant and said she wanted to give her unborn child up for adoption, and prospective families would buy her meals and gifts under the belief she was willing to allow them to adopt, the indictment said.

The wire fraud count relates to the $22,225 a couple from Shawnee, Kan., wired her to an escrow account in Temecula, Calif., set up by a legitimate adoption agency for Rippey’s living expenses. The mail fraud count stems from an Overland Park adoption agency mailing a birth mother packet to Rippey.

Court records do not list a defense attorney for Rippey, and the U.S. attorney’s office said she has not been arrested and authorities don’t know where she is.

In June 2011, Rippey contacted Unique Adoptions, a California adoption agency, saying she was pregnant and wanted someone to adopt her twin babies, which were due in December that year. The agency emailed her profiles of prospective adoptive parents and she selected a couple from Delaware.

The Delaware couple bought her an airline ticket and flew her to Delaware to live with them. They took her on vacation, paid for her living expenses and bought food, clothes and a cellphone, the indictment says.

Rippey eventually called the California agency and said she did not wish to stay with the Delaware couple any longer, and the agency flew her back to California, where she reviewed more prospective adoptive parents, the indictment says.

Prosecutors say Rippey then selected the Kansas couple, who wired her $22,225 on Aug. 8, 2011, from their bank account to an escrow account in California set up by the adoption agency for her living expenses. A couple of weeks later, they deposited another $6,500, and $2,500 more in October.

The Kansas couple flew to California to meet Rippey in October 2011. She gave them sonogram images of a twin pregnancy, falsely claiming they were her unborn children.

The indictment says she was not pregnant at the time and obtained the images from the Internet.

After returning home, the Kansas couple learned Rippey had been working with another adoption agency, American Adoptions, this one in Overland Park. That agency matched Rippey with other adoptive parents, who also sent her money in September 2011 for living expenses and flew to California to meet her, prosecutors said.

In November 2011, Rippey allegedly contacted Abrazo Adoption Associates in Texas, telling them she was pregnant with one child and due in 20 weeks. The agency sent her several profiles of prospective adoptive parents and she selected a Georgia couple to be adoptive parents, the indictment says.

The indictment alleges she also told them she had financial needs, but that couple would not give her any money when she refused to sign paperwork from the adoption agency.

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