Devastating Deception: Local couple duped by adoption scam

After suffering 2 miscarriages, a York County couple was desperate to grow their family.

They paid thousands of dollars to adopt twins from a woman in New York, but it turned out to be a hoax.  FOX43's Amy Lutz reports.

Ashley Aubin and her husband Josh had the nursery all set.  A place where they would raise Arianna and Parker.  Babies that would grow the Aubin family tree.  Babies they were promised when their prayers were finally answered.

"It was a night in November. I looked at her and they were adopting on the show we were watching and I turned to her and said, I want to try adoption and she went, ok," said Josh Aubin.

Unable to afford the cost of going through an adoption agency, they had started a blog looking for help. Not long after, they received a message about an Ashlee Richards, a 33- year-old in Walden New York, pregnant with twins, and unable to keep them.  A perfect match.

"We got along pretty good right away- like, it was as if we always knew her," they said.

The Aubins hired attorneys to draft adoption paperwork. Every day they spoke. Hundreds of texts, pictures of sonograms and a growing baby bump were exchanged. She even gave the excited parents-to-be a teddy bear with a recording of the babies heartbeats. Ashlee Richards had become family.

"The one month I gave her my mortgage to put her in an apartment because what she was telling us about where she was living was unsafe for her and the babies," said Josh.

All told, the Aubins believe they spent nearly 10 thousand dollars to keep their dream alive.  Yet when Ashlee's due date came and their bags were packed, that dream became a nightmare.

"All of a sudden she goes, "Well I don't know about this anymore.   And I'm like, wait what are you talking about, what happened? Then she went gone on facebook..... just gone," remembered Josh.

The Aubins would soon learn, Ashlee Richards was never pregnant.

"Our love for the babies and for her and the desire that we wanted this so badly blinded us," said Ashley.

The Aubins had initially checked into Ashlee's name looking for red flags, but nothing surfaced. What they didn't know was that Ashlee had more than one name.

In fact, FOX43 discovered seven different aliases and after looking into each one, we found this:

A fraud warning posted in a surrogacy support group on Facebook from 2011 with a photo of her attached naming her Ashlee Nerad, a screenshot from a newscast where she was a wanted suspect, and a photo of her in a New York newspaper article about prison inmates.

"She didn't seem like a criminal mastermind. no, she seemed like a normal person. she was really kind of quiet," they said.

The Aubins, however, were not quiet.  They called police and after a lengthy investigation, New York State Police arrested and charged Ashlee Richards in November with grand larceny in the third degree, a felony.

"I don't want to hate her... I don't want that to be... but I don't want to see her do it again," Josh said holding back tears.

So how can someone avoid this happening to them?  We turned to a local attorney for some advice.

"You're not supposed to pay a birth parent but if an adoptive couple wants to help out the birth mother that's ok but do not ever send cash," said Attorney Alexis Swope.  Instead, she suggests giving gift cards for specific places, with those payments going through the attorneys.  Also, if you're pursuing an out of state adoption,  it's always best to seek local counsel.

"If you haven't seen an attorney and something seems wrong, do so immediately, and if something feels wrong, look into it, because usually our guts are right," said Swope.

Meanwhile, the Aubins are left with an empty nursery and broken hearts.

"It's one of those things that you don't think it's gonna happen to you until it happens, she was so good at the role she played, said Ashley."

The Aubins are now closing the door to the bad memories, but they are still keeping an open mind on how to grow their family and thanks to friends encouraging them, they have set up a Gofundme page to raise money for a surrogacy.  They were uncomfortable asking for help but eventually decided to give it a try.

"We like to serve other people and bless others, and it's ok if people want to do the same," they said.

If you'd like to help, a link to the donation page is here.

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