MINEOLA, N.Y. — An attorney who scammed prospective adoptive parents across the country by promising them babies that didn't exist was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison, a punishment that satisfied his victims.
Kevin Cohen, 42, of Roslyn, who claimed his experience as an adopted child motivated him to help people seeking to start families, was convicted last month in Nassau County Court of grand larceny, forgery and other charges. His sentence, the maximum the judge could impose, also includes an order to repay nearly $300,000 in restitution.
"I think it was important that after two years of Cohen twisting everything that he finally understands and the court understands the impact it had on everybody, including our children," Michael Rhomberg, of Eatonton, Ga., told reporters after the sentencing. "It really has torn apart our lives and jaded the way we teach kids to trust people. Now we can't trust anyone, not just strangers."
During his trial, 13 prospective parents testified they had been scammed by Cohen, who headed an agency called the Adoption Annex. The agency was set up by Cohen to provide information to prospective adoptive parents but closed in 2008; Cohen was arrested in September 2009.
Prosecutors say Cohen, who represented himself at trial, scammed hopeful couples with fake sonograms and fictitious records on forged stationery from hospitals and doctors. He told prospective parents that he was in contact with a young, unmarried mother who lived in either Nebraska, Pennsylvania or Arizona and wished to give up her baby for adoption.
Couples gave Cohen money to be held in escrow to pay for the medical costs and other expenses of birth mothers. In reality, the babies never existed and ultimately some of those who were scammed went to the authorities.
"Kevin Cohen preyed on people at their most vulnerable with no remorse about what he was doing," [Of course, if you prey on vulnerable expectant mothers, that's perfectly OK! No one ever goes to jail for THAT! That's just considered business as usual, and besides, they deserve it. But he crossed the line. You don't screw with the paying customer!]
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. "He stole more than just money from these couples. He stole their dream of making a family."
Brigid and Ben Vogt of Seaford, N.Y., attended the sentencing after being scammed for more than $20,000. They said the media attention that followed Cohen's arrest last year led them to connect with a woman in North Carolina and they have since successfully adopted a daughter.
"We were very vulnerable because we wanted a child," Brigid Vogt said. "To put yourself out there and to trust somebody and then to have it pulled out from you because it was a crime, it's like being punched in the stomach."
Vogt also said she doubted Cohen's sincerity when he apologized before being sentenced.
"It's about himself and about his greed and about lining his pockets and not about what he did to anybody," she said. "I don't think he has any idea what he did to anybody. He has no idea. I mean, all we wanted was a baby." [At any price!...and we were entitled to one...after all, we PAID for it!]