Two women, both pregnant and in Pinellas County jail, accused of adoption fraud

Investigators announced the arrest of a second woman for adoption fraud this week in Pinellas County. 

The first case involved a woman who signed an adoption agreement, while incarcerated at the Pinellas County jail, with Susan Deckrow, the director of adoptions at Thomas Fischgrund P.A.

Investigators say the woman, 26-year-old Ceara Stowe was released from jail and communicated regularly with the adoptive couple, who lived in Nebraska. However, she apparently continued to collect money from the couple, through the adoption agency, for pregnancy-related expenses even though she already gave birth to twins.

The second case, announced Friday, involves the same adoption official and a suspect who was incarcerated at the Pinellas County jail at the same time as Stowe. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says even though the women agreed to have their children adopted at the same time, there was no evidence their decisions to allegedly commit fraud was coordinated.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says a Safety Harbor couple signed a pre-birth agreement in Dec. 2018 to adopt the yet-unborn child of 30-year-old Angelica Lopez, who was pregnant and incarcerated at the Pinellas County Jail at the time.

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Investigators say Lopez talked with the couple through email and letters until she was released in Feb. 2019. The couple began meeting regularly with Lopez until the first week of April, as her due date approached. Lopez began communicating with the couple by phone and text messages, including sending the couple photos April 17 of her swollen feet and enlarged stomach. 

LINK: Deputies: Woman lied to adoptive couple about giving birth to get more money

Deputies say the photos were actually taken much earlier because Lopez gave birth April 4. 

Meanwhile, a child protection investigation was opened regarding Lopez's child, the details of which are confidential. The investigation, however, led deputies to the adoption agency, revealing to Deckrow her client had given birth but was continuing to collect money from the couple to which she promised her baby.

Lopez was arrested and faces one charge of felony adoption deception for receiving three checks totaling $1,100 after she had given birth.

The child is with a caregiver appointed by the Pinellas County Child Protection Investigation Unit.