|A Florida woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to bilking New York state and city of $1.7 million intended to support 11 adopted, disabled children. But Judith Leekin kept many of them restrained in her basement, did not let them go to school, and spent the money on herself.
Leekin, 63, of Port St. Lucie, used four aliases to adopt the children from 1988 to 1996, lied about how many kids were living with her and lied about their disabilities, according to the criminal information to which she pleaded. She got $1.68 million in adoption subsidies from 1988 through July 2007, "and used the money to support a lavish lifestyle for herself," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
She also had custody of a 12th disabled child. In 1997, when she lived in Queens, N.Y., 11 of the kids lived in the basement of her home "and did not go to school or outside," prosecutors said. "In addition, several of the adopted children 1-11 were restrained in order to prevent them from getting out of their beds."
In 1998, she moved to Florida, where she treated the children in the same way.
"Between 2004 and July 2007, in Florida, adopted children 1-1o slept on the floor of a storage room abutting the garage and typically only entered the house to use the bathroom or the kitchen," prosecutors said. "In addition, adopted children 1-10 did not attend school, and several of the adopted children were restrained using plastic ties."
She kept collecting money for child 11 after booting it from her home.Leekin pleaded guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of twice the gross gains from her offenses. She will be sentenced on July 23.