Fla. woman in adoption scam gets more prison time

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) - A Florida woman accused of abusing 11 disabled children she adopted - while pocketing more than $1 million in subsidies - has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Circuit Judge Robert Belanger on Wednesday called Judith Leekin's actions "reprehensible" and handed down the maximum punishment allowed in the plea agreement. Leekin, 63, pleaded no contest to four counts of aggravated child abuse and four counts of aggravated abuse of disabled adults. The adoptees are now in their mid-teens and 20s.

"I'm very sorry," Leekin said several times during a brief statement to the court.

Leekin was arrested in July 2007 after police were called to a supermarket where authorities said she'd abandoned an 18-year-old girl.

Authorities say they found the adopted children had been held like prisoners in Leekin's home, often handcuffed together and forced to soil themselves because they were not allowed to use the bathroom. They said they had never seen a doctor or a dentist and had not been allowed to attend school or leave the house. All were near starvation when they were found.

Leekin used four aliases to adopt from different agencies and created fake report cards to show the children's progress, even though they were not attending school, according to court records and officials. The children were adopted in New York City before Leekin moved to Florida in 1998.

New York City records show she received more than $1.2 million in subsidies for the disabled children she had adopted.

Leekin, who moved to the U.S. from Trinidad, was sentenced in July in New York federal court to nearly 11 years in prison for fraud. That sentence will run concurrently with the Florida prison term.

A phone message left for Leekin's public defender by The Associated Press was not immediately returned Thursday.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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