The woman, Nicole Eason, 37, was charged after a 2013 Reuters
investigation exposed an illicit network where parents offered
children they no longer wanted to strangers they met online. Eason’s
husband, Calvin, 46, pleaded guilty last month to the same charges.
Through a practice called private re-homing, the Easons had taken
custody of at least six boys and girls from 2006 through 2009, lying
about their identities to the children’s adoptive parents. Reuters
found other examples of re-homing across the United States, with no
government oversight and at great risk to children.
The news agency revealed that the Easons had created fictitious
credentials. They never disclosed that Nicole Eason’s biological
children had been permanently removed from their custody years
earlier, after social workers concluded the couple had neglected one
child and physically abused the other.
As a result of the Reuters investigation, federal authorities
arrested the Easons in Arizona last spring. They were charged in
U.S. District Court in Illinois with kidnapping two of the girls
that they took in through re-homing - one in 2007 and the other in
2008. They also were charged with taking one of the girls across
state lines with the intent to engage her in sexual activity.
The girl, who turned 8 while she was in the custody of the Easons,
told authorities that both Calvin and Nicole molested and physically
abused her. The other victim said she was expected to sleep next to
a naked Nicole Eason but was not molested.
In both cases, the parents who transferred custody of the children
to the Easons had connected with Nicole Eason through Yahoo groups.
Parents used the online bulletin boards to discuss their
difficulties caring for children they had adopted, and Reuters also
found many cases in which parents sought to offload those children
to strangers. During a five-year period, Reuters found that on a
single Yahoo group, a child was advertised for re-homing on average
once a week.
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Yahoo removed the message boards after the news agency brought them
to the company’s attention.
Living in Illinois at the time, the Easons presented themselves as a
loving, stable family, dedicated to the well-being of children in
their care. In reality, they had lost custody of both of their
biological children. After authorities had removed their second
child, a newborn, a sheriff’s deputy wrote in his report that the
Easons “have severe psychiatric problems as well as violent
No U.S. federal law specifically prohibits re-homing, and Reuters
found that state laws restricting custody transfers and advertising
of children rarely prescribe criminal sanctions and are frequently
In response to the Reuters investigation, at least six states have
passed new restrictions on advertising children, transferring
custody, or both.
(Reporting by Megan Twohey. Edited by Blake Morrison.)
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