Mom of 'Internet twins' gets no jail time
Saturday, January 19, 2002
ST. LOUIS -- The mother of the so-called "Internet twins" will spend the next three years on probation and must pay more than $21,000 in restitution, a federal district judge ruled Friday.
Wecker, 29, of St. Louis had originally pleaded innocent to lying to get rent subsidies, food stamps and unemployment benefits. She changed her plea to guilty in October.
Her lawyer, Burt Shostak, said the ruling "certainly doesn't hurt" her case in an unrelated custody battle with her estranged husband, Aaron Wecker. Kiara and Keyara Wecker, now about 19 months old, were caught in a highly publicized trans-Atlantic adoption dispute last year. The parents twice placed their children up for adoption with an Internet service and twice sought to get them back.
The twins are now in state custody while the parents' custody dispute is ongoing in state courts.
"I just thank Burt and thank God," were Tranda Wecker's only comments after the sentencing.
Shostak said Wecker's general reaction was that she is "extremely happy" with the sentence, which under federal guidelines could have been up to 10 months in jail.
When asked how the ruling affects her custody battle, Shostak said, "Well, it certainly doesn't hurt."
When Judge Catherine D. Perry asked if she had anything to say, Wecker apologized to the court.
"I'm deeply sorry for what I've done," she said. "I've made some poor choices in my life and I'm truly sorry for that."
No objection from prosecutor
Shostak suggested to the judge that Wecker should get a lenient sentence because her decision to commit fraud was based on need.
Prosecutor Steve Holtshouser said he did not object to the sentence, but said, "She's a very intelligent person who probably could have supported the family without the fraud that we see here."
Wecker was ordered to pay $21,328.73 in restitution to four local and state agencies for lying on documents to get assistance. She also had to pay an immediate $1,000 assessment to the court.
Two years ago, a California couple, Richard and Vickie Allen, said they paid an Internet broker $6,000 to adopt the twins. They said Wecker later took them for a visit and never returned.
The twins were subsequently adopted by a Welsh couple, Judith and Alan Kilshaw, who said they paid the same broker $12,000.
The Kilshaws gave up their custody fight in Britain last year and a judge there ordered the twins sent back to St. Louis in April.