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A Kentucky mother was arrested on Tuesday, December 3, after police said the woman attempted to sell her baby girl to another couple for $2,000.
Maria Domingo-Perez, 31, was charged with selling a child for adoption after police learned she allegedly peddled her child for cash to Catarina Felipe Jose, 37, and Pascual Jose Manuel, 45, who are also both charged with purchasing a child for adoption.
Police were tipped off to the alleged illegal adoption after being contacted by concerned staff at Parker Bennett Curry Elementary School. Investigators performed a welfare check on Domingo-Perez’s home where she gave “multiple conflicting statements,” according to an arrest citation obtained by Oxygen.com. Police said the child in question was in the home, but suspect the mother may have gone to retrieve the child before or after authorities had arrived.
“The baby was there when we went to interview the mother,” officer Ronnie Ward, a police spokesperson for Bowling Green Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
Domingo-Perez, however, allegedly soon admitted she had hawked her baby to Jose and Manuel.
When police confronted the suspected buying couple, Pascual allegedly told detectives he had shelled out $2,000 to buy Domingo-Perez’s child on Nov. 29.
Social Services took all five of Domingo-Perez’s children into custody, including the infant she's accused of attempting to sell, following her arrest, officials said. Her children range from roughly 1 month to 7 years old.
Police are still working to determine how the Kentucky mother came into contact with Jose and Manuel. At this point, police suspect Domingo-Perez was “totally unknown to the buyers” prior to the alleged illicit transaction.
Ward said that Domingo-Perez’s child was born in October. It’s unknown who the boy’s father is, although the woman’s arrest citation lists her as being married. They said Domingo-Perez declined to speak with investigators following her arrest.
It’s unclear how school officials were aware of the alleged black market adoption or if Domingo-Perez’s children attended Parker Bennett Curry Elementary School, whose staff tipped off authorities. Ward, however, said it was a school staff member who initially alerted authorities.
“This person at the school learned that pretty much the baby was not home,” Ward said. “She immediately gets the police involved.”
Bowling Green Independent School District officials declined to discuss the case on Wednesday.
“We are referring all calls to Bowling Green Police Department,” school district spokesperson Leslie McCoy told Oxygen.com. “It’s an active police investigation. I cannot confirm any additional information.”
Police are also investigating what led Domimgo-Perez to allegedly pawn her child off to apparent strangers — and are also looking into what motivated the two parents accused of purchasing the child, as well.
“It’s disheartening,” Ward described. “I’m not the judge and the jury, and I don’t know the motivation behind it. It’s possible… there was nefarious reasons for purchasing the child or because they wanted a child and were going to raise that child. We really need to find the answer to those questions for our own peace of mind. I don’t think we’re anywhere near finding out exactly what has happened here.”
However, Ward said investigators are looking into the possibility of a “human trafficking element,” in the case as well. He didn’t expect more charges would be added but didn’t rule out the possibility either.
Ward suspected that Domingo-Perez, Jose, and Manuel may have had good intentions, but cautioned prospective parents to go through the proper channels to adopt children.
“It’s still a crime,” the police spokesperson said. “You can wash it away in your mind all you want — one way or the other — still it’s against the law. There’s a reason the law is there and it’s to protect the children. There are proper ways to go about the adoption process and those need to be followed and in this particular case the law was broken.”
Ward said Domingo-Perez’s baby girl, as well as her four other children, are doing “fine.”
“No one was injured, hurt, harmed, abused, any way, shape, or form in any of this, so that’s a good thing," he elaborated.
Prior to her arrest, Domingo-Perez was supposedly wanted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who have since placed a separate hold on her while she’s in custody for the alleged selling a child for adoption charges, officials at Warren County Regional Jail confirmed with Oxygen.com. Police suspect the woman is originally from Guatemala.
Domingo-Perez, nor the accused couple she allegedly sold her child to, appear to have a past criminal records in Warren County, according to the court clerk.
Domingo-Perez, Jose, and Manuel were all being held on a $10,000 bond prior to their initial court appearance. Their arraignment was temporarily delayed Wednesday morning so a court interpreter could translate the proceedings. Officials said Domingo-Perez, Jose, and Manuel aren’t fluent in English.
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