SANTA ANA — An Irvine couple have been indicted on three counts of filing false income tax returns related to their adoption business, which was allegedly involved in an international baby-selling operation, officials announced Thursday.
The federal grand jury indictment against Thomas and Marianne Gati contends that the pair failed to report and pay taxes for the last three years on money they earned from the adoption business.
According to a court affidavit filed in June, Marianne Gati arranged for pregnant Hungarian women to travel to Orange County, where their babies were born and then sold to adoptive parents.
Marianne Gati had previously been charged with a tax violation in a federal complaint several weeks ago. The new federal indictment replaces the earlier complaint and marks the first time authorities have implicated Gati's husband in the alleged crimes.
The Gatis' attorneys could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Thomas Gati, an engineer with a Huntington Beach firm, was arrested Wednesday evening and remains in custody pending a bail hearing, authorities said. Marianne Gati has been released on $700,000 bail on the condition that she remain under house arrest monitored by an electronic bracelet.
The couple are scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elgin Edwards on Monday.
Federal agents contend that Marianne Gati, who was arrested June 21, arranged for as many as 30 pregnant Hungarian women to illegally obtain U.S. visas, give birth in the United States and sell their babies.
Marianne Gati has vigorously denied the government's allegation that she was involved in an illegal baby-selling operation. Her attorney, federal Public Defender H. Dean Steward, has said that his client ran a legitimate adoption business that, in exchange for a $5,000 fee, put poor Hungarian mothers in contact with adoptive parents in the United States.
But court documents filed by the U.S. attorney's office contend that Marianne Gati, a Canadian citizen who is Hungarian-born, promised to pay each mother "$1,000 for a baby with dark features and $12,000 for a baby with light features."
One informant told federal agents that Marianne Gati made $20,000 for each adopted baby, court documents show.
California law prohibits birth parents from receiving any compensation for putting a child