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Missing girl's parents charged with fraud

The adoptive parents of a missing North Carolina girl are facing federal fraud charges in connection to her disappearance. It is still not clear what became of the girl, whose brother reported her missing last year. 

In an indictment unsealed last week, the couple was charged with several white collar crimes. Prosecutors allege that the pair continued to collect over $12,000 in government benefits for raising the girl during the time that she was no longer living with them.

Both spouses are charged with mail fraud, theft of government funds and conspiracy to defraud the government. One of the two spouses has also been charged with tax fraud for allegedly falsifying information about the couple's dependents on their tax returns.

Police were alerted to the girl's disappearance last year, when her 20-year-old brother told them that she had been missing for a year and a half. The girl's aunt and uncle had adopted her at the age of two in the year 2000.

Although the girl's adoptive parents claim she moved to another city to live with her biological grandmother, it is unclear whether that woman actually exists. Police and the girl's biological mother say that she does not.

White collar crime is often prosecuted in federal court, where the penalties for conviction can be particularly harsh. If the couple is convicted of the charges, they could face severe penalties including imprisonment in a federal detention facility and steep monetary fines. In addition, if convicted, they may be required to repay the money they are accused of misappropriating in connection to the charges. 

Source: News & Record, "Parents of missing teen charged with theft," Associated Press, July 30, 2014

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