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March 24, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

There’s never a dull day when reporting the news on the foster care system. Here’s the latest out of Oklahoma (OK News, 3/2/14).

A district court judge in Oklahoma County has been removed from the bench and sentenced to three years of probation for committing fraud in the adoption process. Former judge Tammy Bass-Lesure originally faced 40 criminal counts including perjury, fraud, conspiracy and other offenses, but, under a plea deal with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to a single felony of obtaining public assistance by false representation, and one count of attempting to do so.

The facts seem to be that Bass-Lesure used her office to pressure a couple of state agencies to allow her to adopt two children out of foster care.

District Attorney David Prater said Tammy Bass-LeSure used her position as a district court judge to influence the state Department of Human Services and the juvenile court to “accomplish her goal of being awarded custodial placement and adoption approval for the children.”

She then handed the kids over to the sister of her courtroom bailiff, Ravonda Edwards.

“Even before the adoption was finalized, Tammy Bass-LeSure and her husband, Karlos, abandoned the children by giving them to Ravonda Edwards,” Prater said in a statement, adding that an investigation “established proof of criminal activity.”

Attempting to make lemonade from the lemons provided by his client, Bass-Lesure’s lawyer explained to the press that there was no evidence she’d actually sold the children.

“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Mrs. Bass-LeSure or her husband personally profited from any of this,” [Attorney David] Autry said.

Well, that’s alright then.

Meanwhile, Ravonda Edwards doesn’t look to be getting off so lightly. She’s still facing six felony counts arising out of the deal.

The question that’s yet to be asked, let alone answered, is why Edwards didn’t just adopt a child the usual way. After all, there are plenty of kids in foster care who desperately need qualified adoptive parents. And that of course raises the additional question, “is Edwards a qualified adoptive parent?”

My guess is she’s not. Again, why didn’t she just go through the usual process of applying to adopt a child out of foster care, submitting to the background checks, the home visits and the like, and adopting a needy child? Why commit fraud and get your boss in trouble when the state is eager to place foster kids in good homes? (The state stood to get paid some $5,000 by the federal government if Edwards completed the adoption of a child out of foster care.) So why not just do things the legitimate way?

My guess is there’s a good reason and that reason is that Edwards wouldn’t have been able to pass the screening for adoptive parents. If my guess is correct, that makes Bass-Lesure’s actions all the more reprehensible. In essence, she defrauded the DHS, not just to hand off the kids under the table, but to hand them to an unqualified mother. I could be wrong, but there has to be a reason Edwards didn’t just play the whole thing straight.

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