Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a lawsuit against an international adoption agency based in Strongsville for allegedly misleading clients and taking payment for adoption services it never performed.
News 5 reported on European Adoption Consultants as recently as May 9, when reporter Mona Kosar Abdi uncovered a disturbing case of child abuse that is not only connected to the agency but also--police say--one of the agency's top employees. In February, News 5's Tracy Carloss reported on an FBI raid at the adoption agency .
The lawsuit accuses the agency and its owner, Margaret Cole, of violating Ohio’s consumer protection and charitable laws.
“Our goal is to help the families who have been affected by this,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Many people invested significant time and money to adopt through this agency, and now they are left without their files or the money they paid. As a result, they face additional time, effort, and costs to complete their adoptions.”
More than 70 complaints
European Adoption Consultants, a nonprofit corporation, offered international adoption services to consumers in Ohio and across the country.
In December 2016, the U.S. State Department temporarily debarred the agency for a period of three years. At the time, the agency had hundreds of clients with pending adoption service agreements, and it was required to transfer adoption cases and records to accredited adoption agencies.
Since January, more than 70 consumers have filed complaints against the agency with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Many consumers said they had paid European Adoption Consultants several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, but that the agency had not provided the services it promised, had not transferred their files, and had not refunded their money.
Failure to deliver
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, accuses European Adoption Consultants and Margaret Cole of a variety of failing to deliver promised services and making misrepresentations, including:
- misrepresentations about the countries with which the agency had adoption programs
- consumers’ eligibility to enroll in certain adoption programs
- the length of time an adoption would take
- whether consumers would be able to adopt an infant from a certain country
- whether the agency properly distributed fees it collected from consumers.
Cole also is accused of misleading European Adoption Consultants’ board members about the agency’s assets.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General DeWine seeks reimbursement for consumers and an end to any further violations. The lawsuit also seeks an order to prohibit Margaret Cole from operating or working for a charitable organization in Ohio and to dissolve European Adoption Consultants according to Ohio charitable law.
Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly or those who suspect charitable fraud should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office online or call 800-282-0515.