Foster-ma caged: Abuser get 11 years in $1.6M fraud
Fermino, Jennifer. New York Post, Jul y 16, 2008.
She got one year for every young life she ruined.
A federal judge yesterday sentenced a woman to almost 11 years in prison for crafting a "diabolical scheme" in which she abused 11 special-needs kids she adopted to bilk New York state out of $1.6 million.
Citing the severity of the crimes and the need to deter others, Manhattan federal Judge Richard Berman ignored a plea agreement which would have given Judith Leekin a maximum of eight years on mail- and wire-fraud charges.
"He allowed the children to be heard," said Howard Talenfeld, a lawyer for the victims.
Other criminal charges against Leekin, 63, are still pending in Florida, where she took the kids from New York. If convicted there, she faces another 120 years behind bars.
Many of the victims are now adults and suffer from serious handicaps, including one who is mentally disabled and went blind after he was allegedly allowed to look into the sun with a magnifying glass.
"They will never have that opportunity to have a family. Who is going to take care of them?" Talenfeld asked the judge. "There are folks that would have adopted these children and stayed with them for life."
In court yesterday and in letters to the judge, he detailed the harsh treatment the victims received for two decades.
They were tied to their cribs, burned on a stove and beaten with an iron, the lawyers allege.
None was educated or received proper medical attention, he said.
Authorities are also searching for one child who disappeared under Leekin's watch.
Leekin's lawyer, Diamond Litty, begged the judge to stick to the plea agreement.
"Many allegations are uncorroborated . . . We have depositions of the children who miss their mother, who love their mother," she said.
The US Attorney's Office also asked the judge to stick to the more lenient agreement, but Berman would not be swayed.
The judge also ordered her to pay back the $1.6 million in subsidies she got from New York for adopting the kids.