Feds indict 2 Florida women in adoption scam that bilked Southern Utah couples

Stock image | Photo by Domoyega / iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE Two Florida women are in jail accused of running adoption schemes that bilked more than $100,000 from two Southern Utah couples by promising children that never existed

Booking photo shows Stephanie Lynn Fassnacht, of Jacksonville, Fla., Washington County, Utah, Sept. 19, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Stephanie Lynn Fassnacht and Helen W. Nickulus, both of Jacksonville, Florida, were extradited to Utah and initially booked into the Iron County Jail. Fassnacht was transferred to Purgatory Correctional Facility while Nickulus remained in Iron County.

Both women face 14 federal charges: six felony counts of wire fraud and eight felony counts of tampering with a witness, victim or an informant, according to a federal indictment.

The case began in August 2016 when Fassnacht and Nickulus created fraudulent adoption agreements to obtain money and goods from at least two couples in Southern Utah, according to court documents.

The defendants ran two separate scams, referred to as “The Zoe Adoption Scheme” and “The Twin Adoption Scheme.”

The first scheme ran from August through December 2016, when the defendants told one Southern Utah couple that a friend of the defendants, “Tammy,” was living with them and looking for a couple to adopt her daughter, “Zoe.”

The couple were also told that if they sent money, goods and services to the defendants and “Tammy,” they would facilitate the adoption for the couple.

“Tammy” and “Zoe” were fictitious individuals used in the scheme, federal prosecutors say.

Communications between the defendants and the Utah couple continued for more than four months with daily emails, texts and telephone calls demanding money from the couple, threatening that if they failed to comply then they would “lose the option to adopt Zoe,” the indictment says.

The couple wired more than $29,000 during that time, in addition to sending $13,000 in goods from Amazon and another $16,000 in goods from PayPal that were delivered to the defendants’ residence in Florida.

Booking photo shows Helen Winifred Nickulus, of Jacksonville, Fla., Iron County, Utah, Sept. 19, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Between wire transfers and the costs of goods, more than $58,000 was paid by the couple.

“The Twin Adoption Scheme” ran for seven months, from January through July 2017. Fassnacht and Nickulus told a second Utah couple that Fassnacht was pregnant with twins, but would have to put the infants up for adoption after birth, claiming that Fassnacht was diagnosed with cancer.

Similar to the previous scheme, once communication began, it continued daily with emails, text messages and telephone calls in which the defendants demanded money from the couple.

In response to the defendants’ repeated requests, the couple wired them more than $38,000 and charged another $18,000 in goods sent to the defendants’ home in Florida. The couple became suspicious after paying the money and being told the babies were born, at which point the FBI became involved.

In reality, the indictment alleges, the defendant was not pregnant, nor was she diagnosed with cancer, and prosecutors say neither defendant had any intention of honoring the agreement from the start.

Through the course of the year-long investigation, FBI agents determined that Fassnacht and Nickulus defrauded at least five individuals out of more than $110,000 over the course of 13 months, from June 2016 through July 2017.

In July 2018, a federal indictment was filed on the wire fraud charges.

During a raid by federal agents, both defendants were arrested on charges of tampering with a victim after they found evidence that the women left a series of messages on the victims’ voicemails in an attempt to threaten or intimidate them into not testifying against them.

The U.S. District Court confirmed that the cases involved victims in Southern Utah, but could not provide further details about the case.

There are no court appearances scheduled for either defendant at this time.

This report is based on statements from court officials and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • mesaman September 21, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    The “Zoe” and “Twins” schemes are more accurately “Scams”. These two visually frightening women should be found guilty and forced to marry one of the Jeffs. That will punch their ticket.

  • comments September 21, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Quite foolish trying to purchase babies. Usually such foolish people will not have quick access to such large sums of money to be wiring it willy nilly off to tattooed-face FL degenerates. I suppose these barren couples begin to feel so desperate to get ahold of an infant that they throw all good sense out the window. A lot of social pressures on them from the LDS cult(ure) I would imagine.

  • Striker4 September 21, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Well I was Trolling St George news at 10:00 PM Friday, September 21st 2018 and came across this article …..thinking they can just go out and buy a baby ? LOL …they got what the deserved .

  • LunchboxHero September 22, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    You’d think that the face tattoos would be your first clue that Fassnacht makes terrible decisions, so why would someone think it’s a good idea to adopt a child from her?

    • ladybugavenger September 22, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      Perhaps they paid money to people they never met. Or, if they did meet persons, the said persons were not these two, but a paid part of the scheme

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