Yesterday, just a few months after her former husband was convicted and sentenced for his crime, Sue Hayhow, former CEO of Imagine Adoption, was found guilty on one criminal count of fraud (of approximately $47,000). This was not a trial result; she pled guilty. At least we won't have to wait for the trial this summer.
The original allegations were that she and her former husband defrauded the agency of over $420,000. But we families have known for years that criminal fraud charges are very hard to prove, given the trails of money that must be followed. Part of me just feels glad that she was never given the chance to be acquitted of her crimes, and glad that, despite the ridiculously and inappropriately light sentence that she received, at least she walks away with a criminal record that will stay with her for the rest of her life.
Despite the fact that I forgave her long ago, I admit that I've had to regularly and consciously remind myself of this choice over the past several years, even after bringing Seth and Lizzie into our family. It's hard not to slide into bitterness, at least in moments when memories come flooding back of the pain of those days when we thought our dreams of adopting were over, as a result of Sue and Rick Hayhow's actions. It's hard knowing that her actions resulted in a delay or complete stop to so many families' adoption dreams. It's hard thinking of the kids who were abandoned and near starvation levels in the agency's transition house in Ethiopia during those bankruptcy days. It's hard knowing how she affected the livelihoods of staff in Ethiopia (some of whom stayed on without pay for months and fed children out of their own pockets in the time surrounding the bankruptcy). And it's hard knowing that some kids adopted during those dark days of transition still suffer residual effects of her actions. In the end, after the Trustee in Bankruptcy was able to patch the agency back together for a time (with further investment from families), many families were eventually able to adopt children; but many families had to discontinue their dreams of family because they simply had no more money to invest; and there are still some families who are waiting for their referrals because of the mess that Sue Hayhow created!
Her sentence is inconceivably light (2 year conditional sentence, including 6 months' house arrest and 18 moths with a curfew, followed by 2 years' probation, and an order to pay restitution in the amount of $20,000) but, regardless of the appropriateness of the sentence, it is done. And at least Sue Hayhow had to read/hear many victim impact statements that affected families wrote in time for her sentencing yesterday.
One of the hardest thing about this whole period of time is that we affected families have never heard from her on the matter. Not a word, other than reports of a few miscellaneous people over the years who have declared her to be unrepentant. Many of us went with Imagine Adoption to pursue our adoption dreams because of Sue Hayhow - she proclaimed to be a Christian, espoused a 'total' love approach to children in Ethiopia, was occasionally even to be seen on tv and lauded for her approach to adoption, and was by all appearances totally genuine and trustworthy. We all believed in her until that fateful day on July 13, 2009 when we learned of the bankruptcy and allegations of fraud. And yet we've never heard from her in response to any of the proceedings since. I get that for legal reasons she may not have been able to say much, but that doesn't change the fact that emotionally it's been hard never to hear a word from her. Is it too much to ask for an apology? Too much to acknowledge that she's done wrong and that she hurt people and, for some, ruined forever their chance to have a family? I guess it is too much to expect, and I chose/choose to forgive without this...but the heart longs for it anyway. I'd really hoped that she might say something in court yesterday before her sentence was read out. Apparently she was crying too hard when asked by the judge if she wanted to say anything before he passed sentence; but that honestly just feels like an excuse not to have to apologize.
In case you're short on details of what happened back in July of 2009, here's a link to a good summary article that came out from journalist Brian Caldwell of Kitchener/Waterloo The Record about eight months after the agency was put into bankruptcy: Payments to Ethiopia Soared. I've also included the full article at the bottom of this blog post in case you'd rather read it here.
I've read a number of articles and watched several video clips of the final court processing of this situation yesterday. I find at least a few things worthy of note:
- Sue Hayhow's own children won't even make contact with her because they believe what the media has announced over the years about the misappropriation of funds...I wish this could somehow have been brought out in court, though the absence of support letters from them at her sentencing yesterday speaks volumes. Interestingly, these same daughters offered letters of support for their father when he was sentenced a few months ago. It makes me wonder what really went on behind closed doors that we never heard about - it strikes me as entirely possible that someone who defrauded the agency would also likely manifest additional issues in private. I feel badly for Hayhow's daughters - they, like other victims of Sue Hayhow, have had to endure much and one cost to them has been the loss of a mother's involvement in their lives.
- It is noted in one video clip with Hayhow's lawyer (wow, it's hard to listen to him talk about all that she has endured!) that she offered to repay the monies owing. What is interesting (but not reported) is that Imagine Adoption's Trustee in Bankruptcy reported to affected families/creditors that Sue Hayhow had made this offer publicly, to repay the funds. When the Trustee heard her public offer to repay, they immediately prepared and sent to her a full accounting of the money missing from the agency's coffers (which they said was used to pay for her kitchen renovation, vacations, a new fence, a horse and saddle for a daughter, clothing, spa treatments, etc etc etc etc). And, well, that was it - the end of her offer - she (obviously) never followed through on her apparent willingness to repay the funds.
- One article mentioned that she no longer has any money. Even though they had a beautiful house (renovations of which were paid for by agency/family funds), I'm guessing that divorce and legal fees have consumed many of the proceeds she would have realized from its sale (well over $400,000 several years ago). I find it ironic that she is now short on funds, given that she and her former husband earned a whopping $325,000+ salary from the agency and given that it is misuse of money and lavish spending on agency dime that got her into trouble in the first place. Many families believe that she hid away a chunk of money in bank accounts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, amassed during the days when large sums of money (up to $70,000/month!) were apparently being channelled from the agency's accounts in Canada to accounts somewhere in Ethiopia (which Canadian criminal fraud investigators were unable to access).
- Andrew Morrow. Former Imagine Adoption board member; co-worker of Sue's in a separate organization that was doing charity work in Ethiopia; the person with whom she had an affair while she was married to Rick Hayhow, during the year before the bankruptcy; current husband of Sue Hayhow...in fact, her legal name is now, I believe, something like Susanne Morrow. I have often wondered about Andrew Morrow's perspective on the situation. He married her in the years since the bankruptcy, despite the mess she'd gotten herself into. He knew her during the days when she was misappropriating funds. Did he know, approve, what was going on with her or the agency or her then-husband? How does he support her, given the givens? What might they talk about over the course of the past five years as they considered the anxiety of being under criminal investigation and, eventually arrested and charged with criminal behaviour? How could he maintain faith in her enough to marry her, when even her own children don't believe her? I have wondered if he was in court with her yesterday but I haven't been able to find any information on that yet.
And on that note, I must end this saga. I am including below a few articles and links about the situation, in case anyone wants to read further or watch a few video clips. For my part, it is now done. It needs to be done. It needs to be time to move on.
From Kitchener Waterloo's The Record, here is the link for the article that I've copied over in full below: Imagine Adoption's Former Executive Director Gets House Arrest for Fraud
If you'd like to check out this link, you will find the article below, as well as a couple of short news clips to watch that I found interesting: Guilty Plea by CEO Brings End to Imagine Adoption Fraud Saga
Guilty plea by CEO brings end to Imagine Adoption fraud saga
Published Monday, May 4, 2015 5:37PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 4, 2015 6:28PM EDT
Published Monday, May 4, 2015 5:37PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 4, 2015 6:28PM EDT
The couple were initially accused of spending more than $420,000 in agency funds on personal expenses.
Addressing the court Monday, Crown prosecutor David Foulds said there was little proof anything like that occurred.
“There is no evidence that Imagine Adoption was a fraudulent scheme for the benefit of the Hayhows,” he said.
When Imagine Adoption went bankrupt in 2009, hundreds of parents were left stranded in the middle of the adoption process.
Some of them were eventually able to complete adoptions.
Others, like Robyn Bertucci, ended up losing significant money and not managing to adopt any children.
“She robbed me of being a parent,” Bertucci told CTV News after learning of Hayhow’s fate.
“How do you put a price on what she stole from me? I don’t think there is anything that could make me feel better.”
Finally, one article from early 2010, summarizing the events surrounding the bankruptcy in July of 2009. Here's the link to the article: Payments to Ethiopia Soared