AKRON, Ohio — This Christmas was supposed to be the best yet for Breanne and Greg Paquin. The couple said they flew from Ohio to Houston to meet and bring home the child they were planning to adopt. They had even chosen a name: Carson Ryder.
“All I ever wanted to be was a mom,” Breanne said, sitting on the couch in her living room in Akron, Ohio. Baby toys, swings, a nursery and a filled bookshelf were ready for use, but there was no baby.
The couple planned to meet the birth mother in Houston the day after Christmas. The Paquins said plans changed when the woman told them her mother was hospitalized with chest pains and would have to undergo open heart surgery.
At this point, the Paquins were already in Houston and began to notice that things didn’t feel right.
“But she was saying her mom was dying, so we were trying to be so sensitive to that,” Paquin said.
The Paquins said this wasn’t the only time the birth mother postponed a trip due to an emergency. Earlier in December, the couple was supposed to visit Houston to meet her, but just before they scheduled the flight, they said she told them she'd been diagnosed with placenta previa and was placed on bed rest.
Breanne Paquin said the birth mother always had excuses for why she couldn’t comply with steps in the adoption process. Paquin said the woman was unable to sign over the right for her medical providers to send bills to the Paquins or complete documentation through the Paquins' lawyer, Edwin Lee, who has represented the couple since they began the process with the birth mother.
The couple said they spent $17,000 on the adoption process and $9,000 was paid directly to the birth mother to compensate for medical receipts she sent them. Lee has provided those medical receipts and other documentation that he said show the Paquins covered those costs.
The Paquins now recognize there were red flags, but the tipping point for them was the birth mother’s claim that her mother was suddenly dying.
“I woke up on Thursday morning…and I felt sick to my stomach, and I just knew,” Paquin said.
The couple met with Lee that day to express their concerns. Lee and Greg Paquin drove to an address that Lee found during a background check on the birth mother and said they spoke with relatives living there.
They said the relatives confirmed their suspicions that the open heart surgery story was a lie and said the woman lived with her mother and her mother was not in any way sick or in the hospital. They said the family also told them that while they hadn’t seen the woman recently, they were not aware of a pregnancy.
“It’s kind of a sense of being young and excited and having hope and passion for starting a family, but it’s also about someone just being downright evil and lying,” Lee said.
The Paquins made the decision to stop communicating with the woman they thought would make them parents.
Lee said the woman also reached out to him and he was firm in telling her that she was facing serious responsibility for what she'd done. "She didn't deny it, but she started crying and asked what she could do to get out of it," Lee said.
Lee said adoption fraud is a federal crime and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has it listed on its website as a common scam.
The Paquins shared their hopes of adoption on TikTok in May of last year. The two said they struggled with fertility issues and after Breanne was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, they decided it was their best option to create a family.
They decided to search for a birth mother through social media, something friends of theirs had done successfully.
“We knew we didn’t want to go through an agency because the prices are astronomical and we really feel that that’s just a third person that you can cut out. All an agency does is set you up with a lawyer, the social workers and you can find those people on your own,” Paquin said.
Over the summer, they said a woman who claimed to be pregnant and unable to parent the child reached out online. Breanne said they quickly grew close.
“I talked to her all day, every day for five months,” Paquin said. “She became, like friends. Honestly, like family to me and to my husband. So, this really blindsided us completely. I believed every single word that she said to us.”
The birth mother sent numerous photos and videos of ultrasounds and of her stomach while the Paquins said they kept her involved in all of their plans to prepare for the baby. They said they sent her photos and videos from their baby shower, the gender reveal and the baby’s nursery.
“This isn’t about the ability to change your mind, this is about someone that time and time again lied and that we can kind of point to things that say you kind of knew what you were doing,” Lee said.
Lee said the safest way to avoid adoption fraud is to go through an adoption agency because it will have the resources for both the adoptive and birth parents. He also recommends remaining alert to red flags and finding someone who isn’t as impassioned to help talk through potential issues. The biggest advice he gave is to stay patient because there will always be children to adopt.
“Don’t be afraid to wait. Babies will be there. Children will be there and there are so many that need families, just take your time,” he said.
The Paquins need time to heal, but they haven’t given up hope of having a child one day.
“I still want to be a mom,” Paquin said. “We still have a lot of love to give and we have a home. We have everything ready for a baby, but right now, it just seems so impossible to think about because this is a very real loss to us, whether this was a real baby or not, this was a real loss to us.”
Lee said he has been in contact with the Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office in Texas. The office confirmed they have spoken and are aware of the situation. Lee and the DA's office both said that a complaint has to be filed with the sheriff's office, and Lee said he's in the process of doing that. The sheriff's office would turn over any findings to the district attorney to consider formal charges.
Spectrum News has chosen not to reveal the woman's name at the Paquins' request and because she is not charged with a crime at this point.
We will update this story if there are any new developments.