Heartbreak for the Holidays

Area Couple Warns of Adoption Scams

By Sarah Naron
Messenger Reporter

PALESTINE – In Devin Allen’s home in Athens, there is a room that she and her family have begun to avoid.

“We still haven’t opened the door,” Allen said. “We keep it closed. We can’t emotionally go in there yet.”

The room was expected to become a place of happiness and serenity with the arrival of a baby boy, but now serves only as a heartbreaking reminder of what the past month has held for the family.

Allen, her husband, and their seventeen-year-old daughter spent much of the past year expecting to grow their family through adoption, but are now working toward acceptance of the fact that the new addition will not be arriving after an adoption scam orchestrated by Palestine resident Amanda Magee has come to light.

“When I was eighteen, I was working at a daycare, and there was a little girl that lived across the street from me that went to the same daycare that I worked at,” explained Allen. “Her mom had started kind of leaving her with me on the weekends while she had to take her two brothers to San Antonio. Long story short, CPS got involved, and I ended up with her.”

Six years later, Allen’s lifelong dream was fulfilled when her adoption of the girl was finalized.

“That’s where it all got started,” Allen said in explanation of what led the family to decide to adopt. “Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to adopt. And then, that just kind of got me in on really wanting to go forward with adopting more children.”

Allen’s husband, Koby, harbored the same desire to provide a home for children in need of one, and the couple had many lengthy discussions on the topic.

“It was just something that we both wanted to do,” Allen said. “His aunt and uncle actually raised him, so he was just as passionate about it as I was.”

Shortly after the couple married in mid-April of 2017, they received word of an expectant mother in Palestine who was interested in placing her child for adoption.

“My mom is the one that caught it, because some people had come to her,” Allen explained. “They told her it was her fourth kid – come to find out, it was actually her fifth – and she was wanting to give the baby up.

“And so, my mom called us a week and a half after we got married and was like, ‘Look, I know this is, like, super early, but you should just really think about it.”

Allen’s husband was, at first, reluctant.

“He was like, ‘I don’t know, we’re still living in a rent house, and I just got started with my job,’” Allen divulged.

After discussing the matter and praying about it, the couple decided to take the next step toward extending their family.

“Weeks later, we decided to meet and talk and see what all she was expecting out of the situation,” Allen said. “And we just decided that’s what we were gonna do – you know, if that’s what fell in our lap, we were gonna pursue it.”

The Allens sat down for a meeting with the couple who had contacted her mother the first weekend in May, but had no contact with Magee until August.

“It was the very first week of August,” recalled Allen. “We hadn’t heard anything, and we had already kind of told everybody what we were looking at doing and everything. And so, we were like, you know, ‘Is this actually gonna happen, or not?’”

The Allens reached out to the couple who had first informed her mother of Magee’s situation and were told that they wanted to avoid pressuring Magee. The process, it appeared, had been forced to a standstill.

“So, I just kind of left it alone, and I was just like, ‘You know, if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.’ Koby and I had been talking about it on the phone that Sunday, and I was like, ‘You know, I think maybe we just need to let it go and move forward.”

Just half an hour after that phone conversation, however, Allen received the first contact from Magee.

“She found me on Facebook and messaged me, and she was like, ‘Do I know you?’” Allen recollected. “And I was like, ‘No, but I know of you.’”

Magee inquired whether the Allens were the couple looking to adopt her unborn child, and upon receiving confirmation, began communicating frequently with Allen.

“From there until the night before she was supposed to have the baby, she talked to me every single day,” divulged Allen. “We conversed on Facebook, text messages, phone calls…everything.”

The Allens also received sonogram and maternity pictures from Magee.

“She never made herself not believable,” Allen said.

Confident that the bouncing baby boy would soon be part of their family, the Allens busied themselves with preparations for his arrival in late December.

“And then, we were talking one day, and she (Magee) told me that she’d went to the emergency room the previous night and wanted to know if I could help with some medicines the doctor had prescribed her,” Allen said. “Of course, we said yes.

“She went to the emergency room on a Sunday night, and she had a doctor’s appointment on that Monday, and she was like, ‘I’ll know what’s going on then,’” Allen continued.

Following the appointment, Magee informed Allen that her doctor had delivered a diagnosis of preeclampsia and prescribed a medication to regulate her blood pressure along with injections of steroids to ensure that the baby’s lungs would be properly developed by the time he arrived. She also claimed to have been placed on bed rest.

“(It was) very detailed – like a doctor actually told her this, it was very believable,” Allen said of the information provided by Magee. “Having a medical background, I knew she was telling the truth – or thought that she was.

“The only way that she would have known some of the things that she was telling me was if, for one, she actually had preeclampsia or two, someone – like a doctor or a nurse – had told her what to say. It’s not something you can just pull up on Google,” Allen explained. “I mean, she even knew the name of the steroid injection she needed, where it was supposed to be administered – everything.”

Believing Magee to truly be experiencing the health issues she claimed to have, the Allens began sending extra money to assist with the cost of medications, healthy foods, and other necessities.

“About three weeks later, she messaged me on Monday – because her appointments were on Monday – and said, ‘Okay, are you ready?’ And I was like, ‘Ready for what? Are they taking the baby now?’”

Magee’s response was that although the baby was not being delivered that day, the Allens had the option of choosing Friday, Nov. 17 or Monday, Nov. 20 to meet their bundle of joy. Wanting the rest of their family to be able to spend the weekend getting to know the little one, Allen opted for Friday.

“And she was like, ‘Okay, well, it’s set,” Allen said.

Magee expressed apprehension at the fact that the physician on call was not her regular doctor, but assured Allen that she was okay with proceeding.

“(She said) ‘We can do this,’” Allen remembered. “And so, everything was good to go.”

A friend of the Allens hosted a baby shower to assist the couple in the acquisition of the things they still needed for the baby, and the final preparations for his arrival went into full swing.

Allen spent the night of Thursday, Nov. 16 with her mother, who resides not far from the hospital in Palestine. She received a call from Magee to confirm that the couple were “still on board for tomorrow” and requesting that Allen pray with her and for her.

“She was like, ‘I’m so glad that I found y’all and that y’all are gonna adopt the baby, and I know that he’s gonna have wonderful parents,’” Allen continued. “(She was) just, you know, super thankful.”

At the conclusion of their phone call, Magee told Allen that she would be calling her again the following morning to ensure that she was up and ready to head to the hospital. It was a call, however, that would never be placed.

“I was getting a little worried,” said Allen. “And then, I showed up to the hospital and was standing there in the lobby and had told the lady at the front desk what was going on and what I was there for.”

Upon contacting the hospital’s labor and delivery unit, the receptionist received alarming news.

“She was like, ‘No, ma’am, we don’t have anybody here by that name,” Allen said. “She said, ‘We actually don’t even have any scheduled C-sections for today.’ She said, ‘The doctor that’s on call is not even one of our normal doctors, she’s an out of town doctor – which, Amanda had stated previously that it wasn’t gonna be her doctor.

“So, I was like, ‘What’s going on? Because they’re saying they don’t even have scheduled C-sections for today,’” Allen said. “I was just really confused.”

After repeated attempts to contact Magee were unsuccessful, Allen contacted the neighbor with whom Magee had been staying.

“The neighbor stated that he knew she was supposed to be at the hospital, that he hadn’t seen her since the previous night, but that if he saw her, he would let her know to call me,” Allen said. “He even stated that he knew that she was pregnant and was giving the baby up for adoption and who I was and everything, so he knew what was going on.”

When the office of the attorney with whom the couple had been working throughout the adoption process opened, Allen contacted them in search of guidance.

“They pretty much told me that there was nothing they could do about it and asked me, ‘What do you expect us to do?’” Allen revealed. “I was just kind of shocked that that was their response. You know, I expected at least a little bit of sympathy at that point, and there was none.”

Allen contacted the Palestine Police Department, and officers were dispatched to the address that appeared on Magee’s driver’s license, which Allen had been given to allow money transfers from the couple to Magee.

“She wasn’t there; they said that she hadn’t lived there in a long time,” Allen went on. “I told them the only other place I knew she could be, which was the home where she told us she was staying.”

The resident of the home agreed to allow his home to be searched by the officers, but revealed that they would not find Magee there as she had packed her things and left two days prior. He claimed the departure was not atypical, as Magee came and went as she desired.

“He let them come in and search, and the officers said they looked everywhere – in cabinets, behind doors, under beds, everything – and there was no sign of her,” said Allen.

When questioned by officers if he was aware that Magee was pregnant, the owner of the home had a different response from the one he had previously given Allen.

“He was like, ‘I didn’t even know she was pregnant. I had no idea,’” Allen divulged. “So, that immediately drew attention to the (question of), ‘Is she even pregnant?’ Because you don’t live with somebody (when you’re) eight and a half, nine months pregnant, and they don’t know you’re pregnant. You know, by that point, it’s obvious.”

Police continued the search for Magee, but remained unable to locate her. Days passed before Allen received any further contact.

“The night before Thanksgiving, we were pulling in to Kroger’s – it was me and my daughter and my sister-in-law – and my phone went off from Facebook, and she had tried to call me three or four different times.”

In addition to the missed calls, Allen had received a Facebook message from Magee, who informed her that she had given birth at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Grapevine. Magee asked Allen to come and collect the baby and also requested that she send her fifty dollars to help her get back home.

“She said, ‘He’s fine, but can you please send me the money? I need a way to get home, I’m stuck up here, and I don’t have a way to get back,’” Allen said. “That immediately was a red flag, like, ‘For one, did you really have the baby, and is he really there? Two, why do you need fifty dollars to get back home?’”

Allen denied Magee’s request for money and contacted the police department and the attorney’s office to alert them of the situation.

“The attorney’s office told me, once again, there’s nothing they can do until I had the kid in my hands, which is not the case, because they have to be there to sign paperwork that she handed the kid over,” Allen explained. “But they were gonna be out of town for the weekend and not back into the office until Monday. So, that kind of just left me at a dead-end street.”

Upon speaking with an officer at the Palestine PD, Allen was encouraged not to send money until the child was in her possesion.

“(The officer said), ‘If you want to hand her money to help her once you’ve got the kid in your hands, that’s completely different. If she’s got the baby, immediately contact us, because we need to get her,’” Allen said.

Allen informed Magee that she would not be sending any money until the baby had been handed over and the required paperwork was signed, at which point she and her husband would “hand her more (money) than what she needed” and assist her in getting back home in whatever way they could.

“She said, ‘Okay, well, I’ll be waiting outside of labor and delivery; they’ve already discharged me. Just bring the papers and hurry up.’”

For much of the trip to Grapevine, Allen received messages from Magee wondering how far away from the hospital she was and complaining of being hungry.

“I sent her ten dollars to Western Union, because at that point, I wanted to make sure I was not making a pointless two-hour drive,” Allen said. “And I told her, ‘You have to be in Grapevine to pick it up.’ Because on the Western Union app, you can send it to a specific city.”

Approximately thirty minutes after the money was sent, it was picked up.

“As soon as she picked the money up, she quit conversing,” Allen said.

Upon arriving at the hospital, the Allens spoke with an on call doctor, three nurses, and two security guards.

“There was nothing,” Allen divulged. “They called a code over the intercom, they had security guards running from one end of the hospital to the other, everybody’s looking for this lady that – is she here to steal a baby, did she really have a baby, you know, what’s going on?”

The Allens were placed in a waiting room as the search ensued. Soon, a charge nurse ran down the hallway to speak with them, and the couple’s hopes of a happy ending soared.

“I thought, ‘This is it, they found her; they found the kid,’ and that was not the case,” Allen said. “She just told me, ‘I’m sorry, nothing like that’s happened here.’”

The Allens have since heard nothing more from Magee, and she has yet to be located.

“It’s just a dead-end street,” Allen said. “Nobody can find her; nobody knows where she is. We’ve talked to friends, family, I’ve been in contact with the adoptive parents of her oldest daughter. They even stated that back in August, she had said that she was back using drugs, and that’s when we had started being in contact with just her.

“There’s no doubt in my mind at this point that she was just in it for the money,” Allen stated. “I don’t know what she really got out of it, because it was forty dollars here, sixty dollars there – it wasn’t like we were sending her three hundred dollars a week or anything. But she got us; she got us good, because we paid her that and then $8,500 to the attorney.”

Currently, officials with the Palestine Police Department are still on the search for Magee and investigating the case.

“Once they catch her, I’ll have proof that she broke parole, because she’s on parole, and she’s not supposed to leave the county, and she did state she was in Grapevine. That’s where I sent the money, and she did pick it up. Western Union has to verify a driver’s license, and so, it was definitely her that picked it up.

“I don’t know what she was doing there or how she got there or how she got back or where she’s at,” Allen stated. “But she’s definitely on the move.

“At this point, we just really hope that she’s caught and stopped,” Allen said when asked what she hopes to see happen in the near future. “You know, we’re not doing it to be mean, because our feelings are hurt, we want it to stop because we don’t want her to be able do it to somebody else.

“To have to go back home and explain to your daughter that, you know, there is no little brother – even though she just turned 17 two days ago, it was really hard on her. It’s hard on our parents and our family. It’s hard on us. We have to go home to a nursery that doesn’t have a kid.

“About two days ago, I finally came to the conclusion like, ‘Okay, you need to get a grip, this isn’t gonna happen,’” Allen continued. “But there’s still that thought in the back of my head that she had this baby and she’s on the run with him.”

Allen went on to say, however, that she believes that thought to be incorrect due to the number of people who have since come forward to claim that Magee was never pregnant.

“Mainly, just getting her stopped and just bringing awareness to the situation,” Allen further stated regarding her hopes for what the next steps are. “This happens. People need to really watch it.

Allen is a member of several adoption groups on Facebook, and discussions regarding red flags which may indicate adoption scams are a common topic among the members.

“Amanda never set any of those off,” Allen said. “Her sonogram was believable; I reverse Google imaged it, it wasn’t anywhere on the Internet. She showed her face in her pictures of her being pregnant, and they were not ones that were on her Facebook from her previous pregnancy. They could have just been ones that she didn’t upload; we don’t know.

“There needs to be attention brought to the fact that this can happen,” Allen continued. “I wish there were ways to prevent it; to make it stop. People need to know that if they’re ever thinking about scamming couples out of money, you’re not just hurting them financially and benefiting yourself financially, you know, there’s emotions involved as well. And it’s just, it’s not okay. You don’t do this to people. You know, you just don’t.

“She let it go on for so long – almost her entire pregnancy,” Allen pointed out. “It’s just, it sucks.”

As heartbroken as they are by what they have experienced, the Allen family is still actively searching for its newest member. The couple has a Facebook page titled ‘The Allens Hoping To Adopt’ where expectant mothers who may be interested in placing a child with them can contact them. In addition, the couple is open to simply providing support for pregnant women who may need it and raise awareness of adoption scams.

“Of course, yes, we still want to adopt, but this kind of sparked a whole new fire in us to spread the word that adoption scams happen and it sucks and it hurts you financially,” Allen said of the experience.

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