Jailmates arrested after accusations of adoption fraud, detectives say

Ceara Rae Stowe, left, and Angelica M. Lopez

Two pregnant women, housed together in the Pinellas County Jail in December 2018, have been charged with adoption fraud after signing agreements to give up their babies while incarcerated and then deceiving the couples and the adoption agency after giving birth.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s detectives say they arrested a 26-year-old Pinellas Park woman at her home Aug. 14 on two charges of adoption fraud, and a 30-year-old Largo woman was arrested Aug. 16 also accused of adoption deception.

Both couples involved were contacted by Susan Deckrow, 69, director of adoptions at Thomas Fischgrund P.A. in St. Petersburg.

In the first case, Deckrow contacted Joshua Buechler, 35, and Lindsey Buechler, 35, from Nebraska, after Ceara Rae Stowe selected their adoption profile.

Stowe signed a pre-birth agreement Dec. 21, 2018, while she was in jail, for the adoption of her twins with the Buechler family. Joshua and Lindsey Buechler signed and accepted the acceptance of adoption agreement for fees to adopt Stowe’s unborn twins on Dec. 24, 2018.

In the second case, Deckrow reached out to Gregory Garbee, 38, and Amaia Garbee, 41, of Safety Harbor after their adoption profile was selected by Angelica Lopez.

Lopez signed a pre-birth agreement on Dec. 20, 2018, while she was in jail, for the adoption of her child with the Garbee family. Gregory and Amaia Garbee signed and accepted the acceptance of adoption agreement for fees to adopt Lopez’s unborn child on Dec. 27, 2018.

Detectives say while in jail, both women communicated with the couples, who were supposed to adopt their babies, through the jail email system and written letters.

Stowe was released from jail March 4. She continued communicating with the Buechlers and Deckrow by phone and text messages. Then in late April or early May, Stowe told the Buechlers her doctor planned to induce labor on June 3.

Detectives say Stowe continued to communicate with the Buechlers and Deckrow maintaining her decision to place her unborn twins with them. As part of the adoption agreement, the Buechlers continued to pay fees to Stowe for rent, food and personal items during her pregnancy.

Stowe sent a text message to Deckrow on May 29 requesting $1,500 for rent, $250 allowance and an additional $350 for other various bills. The $2,100 was paid by both the Buechlers and Deckrow.

Stowe texted the Buechlers on June 3 to let them know she was headed to Bayfront Hospital to be induced. The Buechlers arrived at the hospital a few hours later to discover Stowe was never admitted. Text messages from the Buechlers and Deckrow went unanswered by Stowe.

The following day, with a medical release, Deckrow learned Stowe had given birth in the early morning hours of May 26. Stowe did not notify the Buechlers or Deckrow of the birth of her twins when she requested the latest payment of $2,100. Copies of the birth certificates confirmed the date and times of the births.

Detectives interviewed Stowe Aug. 14 and she reportedly acknowledged receiving funds after the birth of her twins and rescinding the adoption agreement, but not notifying the Buechlers or Deckrow.

Stowe was arrested on two felony counts of adoption deception and transported to the Pinellas County Jail without incident. Bail was set at $10,000.

Stowe’s 50-year-old mother took custody of the twins and Stowe’s four other children.

Lopez got out of jail Feb. 7. Detectives say she continued communicating with the Garbees and Deckrow by phone and text messages, and the Garbees met Lopez weekly for lunch until the beginning of April when the communications stopped after Lopez reportedly told them she was due soon and couldn’t eat.

Detectives say Lopez gave birth to her child on April 4. However, she continued to portray to the Garbees she was still pregnant and sent pictures to the couple on April 17 of her swollen feet and enlarged stomach. Detectives say the photos were taken much earlier to continue the ruse she was still pregnant. Lopez received three checks totaling $1,100 after she had given birth that she deposited in her bank account.

Meanwhile, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Child Protection Investigation Unit had opened an investigation regarding Lopez’s child. While investigating the case, Deckrow was contacted by an investigator and who then found out Lopez had given birth approximately two weeks prior. Deckrow advised had she not learned of the birth, she would have continued giving funds to Lopez provided by the Garbees.

Detectives conducted an interview with Lopez on Aug. 16 and she reportedly acknowledged receiving funds after the birth of her child and rescinding the adoption agreement, but not notifying the Garbees or Deckrow.

Lopez was arrested on one felony count of adoption deception and transported to the Pinellas County Jail. Bail was set at $5,000. She was released on surety bond the same day. The child was placed with a caregiver by the Pinellas County Child Protection Investigation Unit.

Detectives say although the women were housed together at the jail at the time they agreed to put their children up for adoption, there is no evidence the decision to commit fraud was coordinated.