2 moms charged in adoption scams were Florida jail inmates

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Two Florida women scammed two adoptive couples in cases that appear unrelated but started when they were pregnant in the same jail, authorities said.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that no evidence indicates the scams were coordinated, but acknowledged both women signed the pre-birth agreements around the same time while being held at the county jail in Clearwater, Florida.

Authorities arrested Angelica Lopez, 30, on Wednesday and Ceara Rae Stowe, 26, on Friday on one and two counts of adoption deception, respectively because Stowe gave birth to twins.

In both cases, the adoptive parents from Florida and Nebraska communicated with the women while in jail and after their release. The women didn’t tell the couples about giving birth, but continued receiving payment per the adoption agreements. Authorities are continuing to investigate.

On June 3, Stowe told the Nebraska couple it was time, saying she was excited to complete their family. But she did not show up at the hospital.

The prospective mother Lindsey Buechler told the WTVT station Stowe sent her pictures of her hooked up to monitors, but the couple could not find her and later discovered she had actually given birth May 26, days before she had asked for $2,100 for rent and bills pretending she was still pregnant. Buechler said they had already paid Stowe more than $24,000 for prior-to-birth living expenses, legal fees and travel. But the felony charges are for the payments made after the birth.

In Lopez’s case, she met the couple from Safety Harbor, Florida on a weekly basis for lunch up until days before she gave birth. Then she told them she no longer wanted to meet, because “she was due soon and couldn’t eat,” the sheriff’s office said. A news release said she pretended she was still pregnant by sending photos of her swollen feet and belly almost two weeks after giving birth. Officials say she received and deposited into her bank account three checks totaling $1,100 after she had given birth.

Stowe gave birth to twins who are now in custody of her mother. Lopez’s baby was appointed a caregiver.