PORTLAND — A Westbrook woman who pleaded guilty in an adoption scam involving couples in New Jersey and California received a nine-month jail sentence Friday in Cumberland County Superior Court.

In an agreement with prosecutors, Misty Sargent admitted to two counts of felony theft. She promised to give her unborn baby to three couples, including one represented by an adoption agency, said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Norbert.

Sargent accepted as much as $10,000 in financial support from the couples, then she gave the baby to a couple in New York who had adopted a child from Sargent a few years earlier, Norbert said.

“I think she wanted to do that all along,” Norbert said, noting that Maine law can be dicey for adoptive parents, because it allows birth mothers to back out of adoption agreements at any time before they give binding legal consent.

Sargent’s attorney, Joel Vincent, couldn’t be reached for comment after the sentencing.

Sargent was indicted on a felony theft charge in July, when she was 24 and the baby in question was 2 months old.

In February, prosecutors added a second charge because Sargent violated an agreement that prevented her from subleasing her Westbrook apartment, Norbert said.

Police claimed Sargent took money from people who wanted to sublet her apartment, at a time when she was being evicted by her landlord.

Prosecutors said a birth mother in Maine is allowed to accept money from an adoptive couple or an agency to pay health care expenses and certain living expenses.

However, Sargent broke the rules by using some of the money for other purposes, such as buying video games for her boyfriend, Norbert said.

She also accepted money from more than one couple for the same purpose, such as rental payments in the same month, Norbert said.

The plea agreement doesn’t require Sargent to repay the couples because she has no income and is caring for a 2-year-old child.

“The court has to find an ability to pay, and she’s on state aid,” Norbert said.

Norbert said that taking the case to trial would have been difficult because at least two of the couples live outside Maine.

“One of the couples has moved on and has since adopted another baby,” Norbert said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]