MACOMB COUNTY, Michigan — Ever since WXYZ television station did a segment about a mother who says she’s an adoption worker, but she isn’t licensed by the state of Michigan, families have been calling, emailing and reaching out on social media to share their heartbreaking stories.
Now we've obtained new documents that show the same baby was promised to more than one family; both families paid thousands of dollars for the alleged adoption "services."
One of those families is the Markley family. Stacey Markley says she’s having a really tough week: the baby boy that her family was supposed to adopt was allegedly due on Sunday. But now she doesn’t even know if that baby ever existed, and she wants some answers.
Tara Lynn Lee promotes herself online as an adoption worker. But the 37-year-old from New Haven, Mich. is not a licensed adoption worker in Michigan and state officials tell us the companies and nonprofits she’s associated with are not licensed either.
Lee’s home was raided by the FBI in November.
Several sources close to the investigation say Lee is under scrutiny for allegedly promising the same baby to more than one potential adoptive family at a time.
“We were so prepared for this baby, everybody was excited for us. And then just to turn around and have nothing, to this day it’s still hard for me,” said Markley from her home in Ohio.
Markley says she and her husband hired Lee to help them adopt a baby boy. She says based on the contract they signed, they were paying Lee to care for the birth mother who had “matched” with them. Now Markley isn’t sure if there ever was an actual birth mom or a baby.
“It’s heartbreaking because I’m surrounded by all this baby stuff and it doesn’t have an owner,” Markley said.
Markley says Lee’s stories about the birth mother never added up.
“It was constant, for the two months that we were matched with her, it was – ‘oh, we didn’t meet up, she canceled, I canceled – I had to go deliver a baby.’ So it’s like we never got word of how anything was going,” Markley said.
Markley says Lee had them sign a contract, and they handed over $17,000 when they “matched” with the birth mother. But when they asked for additional proof of pregnancy, Markley says, they didn’t get it.
“I knew in my heart that day that that was going to be the end of it — we weren’t going to be going forward with this, and we weren’t going to be matched anymore. I called my mom crying that day,” she said.
She says after a lot of fighting they eventually got about $12,000 back. Lee’s paperwork shows she kept $4824.75 for expenses.
Lee’s contract from July states that “TL Pregnancy Services is a licensed counseling and adoption education center," but state licensing officials confirm Lee is not a licensed counselor.
After Markley spoke to WXYZ, we discovered what appears to be a second contract for another couple in a different state. The contracts are dated two weeks apart: both promising a baby born 12/9/18 from what appears to be the same birth mother named “Tracy.”
Meanwhile, Lee’s attorney says she has been cooperating with the FBI probe.
“I do know that the government is investigating, and that’s their job, and they could do their due process and do their due diligence, but as it stands today we have heard nothing. To the extent that they’ve asked us for information, she’s been in full compliance,” said Sanford Schulman.
Schulman also told WXYZ in an email that, “Always Hope has never claimed to be a licensed agency and this is explicitly noted in every contract. Always Hope provides support for expectant mothers who choose adoption. Every stage was overseen by qualified attorneys who could be consulted throughout the process.”
But when WXYZ pointed out that the contract was with TL Pregnancy Services that claimed to be licensed, Schulman seemed unaware of the claims Lee made in her contract. There is no record of a company called TL Pregnancy Services with the state of Michigan.
As we reported last week, state records show, prior to 2016, Lee ran something called Always Hope Pregnancy Center LLC. Lee is also connected to the Always Hope Pregnancy and Education Center Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida.
Lee is listed as a director on a nonprofit called Always Hope Adoption and Family Services, Inc. in Sterling Heights, Michigan. State officials tell us that organization and Lee are both now under investigation by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and neither is licensed to handle adoptions.
The FBI investigation is still underway into Lee. If you know more about this adoption probe, please contact Heather Catallo at 248-827-4473 or at firstname.lastname@example.org