North Dakota woman charged with adoption scam
JAMESTOWN, N.D. — When an Oregon couple became suspicious about a North Dakota woman who promised to procure a Native American baby for them to adopt, the woman invoked the name of murdered pregnant Fargo woman Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind to buy more time.
Now that woman has been charged with theft for allegedly scamming the couple out of $1,800 in adoption fees.
Betty Jo Krenz of Woodworth, N.D., was charged with theft of services, a felony, in Stutsman County District Court on Monday, April 9. In unrelated incidents, Krenz also faces a felony count of unauthorized use of personal identifying information and a misdemeanor count of theft of services.
Krenz is accused of taking money from a Medford, Ore., family under the guise of facilitating an adoption for them. The couple says they'd been trying to adopt a child for 18 years, according to authorities.
Court documents say Krenz promised an Oregon woman identified only as "AB" that she'd provide a baby born to a South Dakota woman identified as "JB" and at one point during the process needed $1,800 for filing fees and plane tickets.
A report by WDAY-TV in October identified an Oregon woman who wrote of a possible scam on Facebook as Autym Burke and the South Dakota mother as Jodie Blackboy.
According to court documents:
Krenz contacted JB, who she knew through JB's deceased cousin, in early 2017 to see how she was doing. JB told Krenz she was pregnant and homeless. Krenz sent JB money and "kept talking with JB about 'giving JB's daughter up for adoption.'"
JB said she was not going to give up her daughter for adoption, but Krenz kept "pushing and pushing" and trying to "bully" her into it.
In February 2017, AB was put in contact with Krenz through a mutual acquaintance and was told there was a pregnant woman named JB who was due to have a baby girl in May and that JB was interested in putting the child up for adoption. AB expressed interest, but didn't hear from Krenz again for awhile.
In May, AB received photographs of a mom giving birth to a girl. Krenz called AB after the birth and said, "We had a baby girl today." But Krenz said JB was having a hard time deciding whether to give up the baby. AB tried to contact Krenz in the months afterward, but didn't hear back.
In July, Krenz contacted AB through an Idaho woman with whom she was working to allegedly procure a child and visited AB's home in Medford and told the family it would receive the child on Aug. 8. Krenz told the family there would be no cost because everything was being covered by a nonprofit group called Sacred Journey Lodge. AB said at this point she and Krenz were communicating almost daily and Krenz was sending pictures and video of the baby.
According to earlier reporting by WDAY-TV, the photos were taken from JB and used without her permission.
Court documents say that as the alleged adoption day neared, Krenz said a Fargo area woman had stolen money from Sacred Journey Lodge and it would not be able to cover adoption costs so AB's family would have to pay $1,800, which it did with a credit card.
AB made plans to travel to North Dakota on Aug. 8 to pick up the baby, but the day before the family was supposed to fly out Krenz called AB saying the paternity of the child was in question and the adoption would be delayed.
AB said there were delays for the next four weeks. One of the delays was that Krenz said she was an informant in the Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind case and that she needed to go into protective custody with the FBI. Krenz spoke of receiving custody of the LaFontaine-Greywind baby and possibly placing it in temporary custody with AB.
It was then that AB requested photos of Krenz together with the baby AB's family was supposed to adopt, but Krenz would only send pictures of the child. Krenz asked AB to send her $2,700 for plane tickets, which AB refused. Shortly thereafter, AB told Krenz not to contact her anymore. AB requested Krenz pay back the $1,800, which Krenz did.
AB eventually contacted JB on Facebook to tell the child's mother what happened, and JB confirmed the baby was never up for adoption. AB and others shared their stories about Krenz on Facebook and contacted law enforcement, according to court documents.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Stutsman County Sheriff's Office investigated the case.
The other charges against Krenz stem from her alleged use of a person's name, telephone number, address and email address to make purchases with a value of less than $1,000 and her alleged retention of cans of pepper spray to gain a benefit of less than $500.
A phone message left for Krenz Monday was not immediately returned. Court records do not identify an attorney for her.