Mom Shares Story Of Being 'Manipulated' By Birth Mother In Private-Adoption Scam

Freelance journalist and lifestyle blogger Jeannine Morris Lombardi and her husband Joe Lombardi desperately wanted to be parents. After suffering the devastating loss of their daughter Ava who was stillborn at 32 weeks gestation, the couple decided to explore adoption to add to their family. The couple opted to pursue private adoption but sadly they encountered scammers in their quest to become parents. Although they are now the proud parents of a sweet daughter named Amaya, Jeannine is cautioning other parents looking to adopt what can happen when pursuing a private adoption.

In a heartbreaking blog post titled "The Adoption Scam on the News Happened to Us' Jeannine described how she and Joe were scammed not once, but twice by people posing as prospective birth parents. Although they were able to easily identify one person fairly early on as simply trying to scam the New Jersey couple out of money, another person posing as a 16-year-old pregnant girl completely manipulated them into thinking they were going to be parents.

In her blog post, Jeannine explains that in addition to creating an information website about the couple for prospective birth parents, she also began a separate Instagram account hoping potential birth mothers would find it using hashtags. She explains she met one man who said he was a widow with a 3-month-old daughter he could no longer care for, but Jeannine wrote that after he sent pictures of two different children they realized he was simply looking for money and a trip to New York City.

She then met a young woman who called herself Ashley, whom Jeannine wrote,"never asked for money or anything at all. All she wanted was our time and emotional investment and it went on for months." Ashley told them she lived with her father and that she watched her mother commit suicide when she was younger. She said her abusive boyfriend was in jail but she would send pictures to the couple and call at all hours of the day, simply looking to talk, often for hours on end. "Sonogram pictures filled our texts and late night calls with her would last up to three hours. It was like she held us captive. She would scream and threaten to find other parents for the baby if we hung up. So we held on…" Jeannine wrote.

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LOVE✨ Nine years ago today, he took me on our first date. We went to Haru in NYC for sushi and saki, a martini bar for my first (dry up with olives) and then a dive bar for dancing. Oh, what a night!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ❣️⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We've been inseparable ever since and while I always loved him with all of my heart and soul, I never knew until this trying year how much I needed him, too. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ❣️⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ To say I'm lucky is an understatement. This man has brought me the greatest joys life has to offer. He's stood by me throughout my darkest days. He's the best partner in life and I'm so thrilled that we are now raising our daughter and puppy together. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ❣️⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ When people ask me how we met and I tell our story, (we've known each other since high school), I shock myself every time simply because of the fact that he was always there! You know what they say... you have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find your prince. In my case, I opened my eyes at the right time in my life to settle down.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ *⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #love #anniversary #family #newbornphotography #AmayaJo #husband 📷 skalishphoto

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There was no baby, at least not from a woman named Ashley. Jeannine would go on to read a post describing almost her exact scenario she experienced with Ashley posted on the BBC, about another woman that "Ashley" had scammed.

Jeannine told PEOPLE that although she and Joe had dealt with other fake birth mothers, Ashley was the one who manipulated them so much they were completely emotionally invested. "There’s one person who got to our hearts and made us cry all the time and it was Ashley,” she said. “She told us her boyfriend was in jail and that he abused her. She told me that her mother committed suicide in front of her and that her father was never around. I felt bad and I just wanted to be there for her.”

“I stayed on the phone with her the first night for three to four hours,” she adds. “Not because I had time, not because I wanted to talk to her for three to four hours, but because she needed somebody [to talk to] so bad. When I tried to hang up, she would start screaming.”

Finally having dealt with enough, Jeannine explained that she and Joe decided to forgo the private adoption and proceed with an adoption agency. She shut down their adoption website and turned off their phone as they headed to a family wedding in Miami, just as a birth mother from Arizona had contacted their lawyer. The birth mother had just delivered a baby girl and wanted Jeannine and Joe to adopt her.

“We ended up flying from Miami to Arizona to go get our daughter that weekend,” Jeannine told PEOPLE. “It was insane that as soon as I let everything go and said, ‘I’m not doing this anymore,’ Amaya was born.”

The couple is now proud parents of daughter Amaya, and although private adoption made them parents, Jeannine's advice to others is to use an adoption agency. "Scams are part of private, domestic adoption," she writes. "I’d advise anyone going through the process to be aware. It’s so hard not to get emotionally invested, especially when you’re getting pictures of sonograms and newborns, but make sure you have a good support team. To avoid this type of drama, the best thing you can do is use an adoption agency."

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