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Woman previously arrested for exposing 3-month-old to cocaine now facing charges for adoption fraud

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Angelica Lopez

Angelica Lopez

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida woman previously arrested for exposing a 3-month-old baby boy to cocaine, causing significant brain damage, is facing charges for adoption fraud after her arrest on Friday, Aug. 16.

Angelica Lopez, 30, was in the Pinellas County Jail when authorities said she selected the adoption profile of a Safety Harbor couple in December 2018.

Authorities said Lopez signed the pre-birth agreement on Dec. 20. A week later, the sheriff’s office said the couple, Gregory and Amaia Garbee, signed and accepted an agreement to pay fees for the adoption of Lopez’s unborn child.

Lopez communicated with the couple while in jail, and after her release on Feb. 7. After that, the Garbees and Lopez would meet weekly for lunch, the sheriff’s office said.

“We were just through the roof with excitement, and we felt like we were developing a real connection with Angelica throughout the process, which got us even more excited,” said Gregory Garbee.

Communication between Lopez and the couple “abruptly stopped” in the beginning of April, when Lopez said she was due soon and couldn’t eat, according to detectives.

In reality, the sheriff’s office said Lopez gave birth on April 4. However, authorities said she let the Garbees believe she was still pregnant. Detectives said that included sending them a picture of her swollen feet and enlarged stomach on April 17, even though they were taken much earlier.

After giving birth, Lopez deposited three checks from the Garbees in her bank account — totaling $1,100.

“Adoptive parents go in understanding there’s a very good possibility the mother changes her mind,” said Garbee. “She could have done nothing wrong by simply changing her mind, but instead, she tried to turn this into a scam, a complete con.”

The sheriff’s office said around that time, the “Child Protection Unit” opened an investigation regarding Lopez’s child. Authorities said the details of that investigation were confidential.

In November 2018, Lopez was arrested for felony child neglect with great bodily harm. Deputies said Lopez exposed a 3-month-old baby boy to cocaine and waited 11 hours before seeking medical attention for him. By that time, the sheriff’s office said the infant suffered significant brain damage and still had cocaine in his system.

An investigator with the Child Protection Unit contacted 69-year-old Susan Deckrow, the director of adoptions for Thomas Fischgrund, P.A. That investigator told Deckrow that Lopez had already given birth.

Deckrow told the sheriff’s office that, had she not learned of the birth, she would have continued sending Lopez money from the Garbees.

On Friday, detectives interviewed Lopez and she admitted to receiving money after giving birth and rescinding the adoption agreement without notifying the agency or the Garbees.

Lopez was arrested on one felony count of adoption deception and taken to the Pinellas County Jail. Her baby was placed with a caregiver by the Pinellas County Child Protection Investigation Unit.

The arrest of Lopez was the second adoption fraud arrest involving an inmate in the Pinellas County Jail in a week. On Wednesday, Aug. 14, the sheriff’s office arrested 26-year-old Ceara Stowe.

They said Sowe selected a couple in Nebraska to adopt her child, before giving birth and lying to the couple about it while still accepting funds.

Lopez and Stowe were housed together at the same time in the jail and both agreed to have their children adopted at the same time. The sheriff’s office said there is no evidence that they chose to commit fraud together.

Despite the crushing turn of events dealing with Lopez, there was a happy ending for the Garbees. The couple recently welcomed home a baby boy, named Sebastian, who they adopted from another mother.

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