Prosecutors amend charges in adoption records theftFARMINGTON - A North Ogden woman who prosecutors say stole hundreds of confidential adoption records from the 2nd District Courthouse is facing new charges that could result in more prison time.
Jill Ekstrom, 43, was charged with second-degree felony theft in January. Prosecutors say she stole the records to sell them to adopted children who hoped to identify their biological parents.
Instead of a felony, prosecutors have amended that charge to include 21 counts of altering public records, a class A misdemeanor. Each count of altering public records is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, making Ekstrom eligible for as many as 21 years in prison if convicted.
Under the original charge, Ekstrom would have faced a maximum sentence of 15 years if convicted.
"How do I put a value on somebody's privacy?" deputy Davis County attorney Rick Westmoreland said Tuesday. "There's a reason those records are sealed."
Ekstrom's attorney, Dee Smith, said Ekstrom will plead not guilty to the charges. Smith said he's pleased that the felony charge has been dropped in favor of the misdemeanor charges.
"If she was convicted, it's better to be convicted of a misdemeanor regardless of then number than a felony because of the special consequences that go with being a convicted felon," Smith said Wednesday.
According to a probable cause statement filed with the criminal charges, Ekstrom is accused of going through microfilm records at the courthouse in February 2006.
"Shortly thereafter, clerks found microfilm involving several hundred cases concerning adoptions were missing, which were in the same area defendant had been seen," Davis County sheriff's deputy Jon West wrote.
"Defendant was found to have a business which helped people locate natural parents of adoptive children. A sting was set up where defendant was contacted on behalf of one of the missing files. Defendant charged $850 to find the natural parents and was able to locate the mother of the adopted child."
The charging documents say Ekstrom's daughter told police that her mother had between a dozen and 50 rolls of microfilm in her possession from the Farmington courthouse and the LDS Family History Center.
Ekstrom's work is not illegal, if both parties agree to it. She could also petition a judge to unseal part or all of an adoption record on behalf of one of her clients. Under Utah law, adoption records are sealed for 100 years. The Utah Department of Health's vital statistics bureau operates a "mutual consent voluntary adoption registry" which releases information only when both sides register and both sides are over 21.
Ekstrom is scheduled to appear in court on the charges on Monday in Brigham City's 1st District Court. The case was transferred there because of the Farmington courthouse's involvement in the case.
What makes this story so interesting is the Utah Adoption Council. Now I now that Larry Jenkins of Wood Crapo LLC law firm is a member of that group. I also bet money that James Webb, owner of American Center of Choice is probably a member as well. James Webb is also an insurance agent and the former owner of the now defunct Heart of Gold Adoption Services out of California. I have seen many reports on that agency. That agency liked to screw over prospective adoptive parents. I found out recently that another of their members, Dale M. Dorius, committed legal malpractices by not filing on the putative father registry for a friend. Hmmm me thinks someone was trying to screw over a father so he could protect his buddies. Both Larry Jenkins and Dale Dorius are members of this group, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. The Utah Adoption Council by the way is also housed at LDS Social Services. LDS Social Services is also members of the National Council of Adoption. James Webb also worked with JennaLee Ryan. She then transferred to Texas to start her own agency, The Abraham Center of Life and A Abagail's Silver Spoons Adoption Services which she operates out of her home. This woman facilitates for the agencies listed above. Boy does something stink here. The concentric circles are making me dizzy.
All I can say is those of us in the adoption underworld will remember and continue to fight for these folks. Prospective adoptive parents and natural parents ~ if you want assure your rights are protected, DON'T USE THESE FOLKS LISTED ABOVE.
These are the current list of folks fighting these agencies.
Camira Bailey, LDS Social Services
Cody O'Dea, American Center of Choice
Brynden Ayre, American Center of Choice
Joshua Simmerson, American Center of Choice
Shawn McDonald, LDS Social Services
Matt Tenneson, LDS Social Services
If you want more cases involving LDS Social Services and American Center of Choice, read here, too.
We are watching you.