AMERICAN FORK, Utah — The owner of an adoption center based in American Fork has been arrested after he allegedly continued accepting clients after the business was ordered to stop, and at least four couples lost money amounting to more than $100,000 between them.
According to a statement of probable cause, James C. Webb owned and operated Adoption Center of Choice and is now facing four counts of theft by deception as second-degree felonies and four counts of failure to render a proper tax return as third-degree felonies.
The company operated for years without issue, but after Webb took control “Licensing began to see violations during the aforementioned annual audits.” Between September of 2012 and January of 2014, the Division of Licensing took several disciplinary actions against the company before ultimately ordering it to stop accepting adoptive families and birth moms on October 9, 2013 and then revoking its license in January of 2014.
Webb did not stop soliciting clients, however, and the documents allege he maintained two separate websites for his company, one that disclosed the Notice of Action taken against them and another, along with a Facebook page and blog, that made no reference to issues with their license.
Several families signed agreements even after the date when ACC was ordered to stop, and the adoptive families allege they were misled by Webb and never would have paid the fees had they known the truth.
In some of the cases they were told the birth mother had decided at the last-minute to raise the baby but their money was safe and would apply to a different adoption. However, the company stopped responding afterward, and the families eventually did more research and discovered they had been lied to.
In once case, a family traveled to Utah on the advice and encouragement of ACC to pick up their adopted baby, only to learn the baby had been born five days before they left on their trip and that the mother had already decided not to place the baby for adoption.
One family paid $31,050 in fees, another paid $20,050 and a third paid $31,500. The fourth had agreed to pay $29,990, but after paying the first installment they learned the company’s license had been revoked. However, ACC continued to demand the final payment despite not being licensed.
The total money paid to Webb by the families amounts to $100,400, according to the PC statement.
The documents further allege that Webb did not file a tax return in 2013 and he intentionally under-reported his income in 2011 and 2012. He also failed to pay his employees’ income tax withholdings. All told, he failed to pay $226,000 in taxes according to police.
Webb is scheduled to appear in court on February 9.