Grand Forks couple charged with fraud involving adoption service
A Grand Forks couple was released Thursday on their own recognizance to await a June trial on four federal counts of fraud involving a Texas adoption service and a local welfare agency.
Three of the counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Amy Petrick, also known as Amy Galloway, and Jesse Hutchinson, were taken from the Grand Forks County jail to the federal courthouse in Grand Forks to appear, via interactive video, before Chief Magistrate Judge Karen Klein in Fargo federal court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl appeared for the prosecution.
According to the charges, Petrick last year from January to July, "devised and executed a scheme to defraud aspiring adoptive parents," by saying she, as a "birth mother," was interested in placing her child with a couple through an adoption service known as New Beginnings Adoption Consultants, owned and run by Debra Vinson, San Antonio, Texas.
Two counts of mail fraud allege Petrick caused two checks from Vinson's firm, for $840 and for $920, to be delivered through the mail in the scheme.
The third count, of wire fraud, alleges Petrick/Galloway and Hutchinson, as part of the adoption scheme, sent Vinson, via e-mail and the Internet, a fraudulent lease agreement March 18, 2009.
The fourth count, also against both Petrick/Galloway and Hutchinson, alleges they defrauded Grand Forks County Social Services out of heating assistance for low-income people and Temporary Assistance for Need Families benefits from Oct. 1, 2008, to July 31, 2009.
The charges also claim that if the two are convicted of any of the charges, the feds can seize any property from the couple related to the alleged fraud.
The couple have lived together but are not married, a court official said. But information about the status of the child involved was not available through a court official Thursday.
Both Petrick and Hutchinson were in the Grand Forks County jail awaiting Thursday's hearing and were released Thursday afternoon.
They are scheduled to appear together for trial June 8 in the federal courthouse in Grand Forks.