Mom and Daughter Reunite 34 Years After Adoption Scam


The quartet found housing for pregnant women in group homes and often registered them in hospitals under fake names. Couples paid up to $35,000 in cash to secure a baby. They were often asked to pony up more to cover "maintenance" for the girls, who never got a penny.

Police were called when one adoptive couple paid but never received a newborn. In a 1990 plea deal, Fenichel was sentenced five years probabtion and 2,000 hours of community service. He died in 1994.

Rhodes had seen one of his ads in a supermarket newspaper. At the time, she was working at a Long Island bakery.

Her doctor, the father of a friend, made sure she had prenatal care. No one but her boyfriend Larry -- who would be her future husband and father of four more girls -- and two friends knew about the pregnancy.

Fenichel's accomplice -- a woman posing as a nun, "Sister Marie" -- hounded the girl to move into the city before delivery. But Rhodes' mother insisted the teen live in a basement apartment near the hospital, which is now St. Catherine of Siena, in Smithtown, N.Y.

Fenichel said that when Hudson turned 18 he would provide Rhodes with information to find her. He never did and Rhodes didn't want to impose on her daughter's life.

Kathleen Akeson Rhodes Promised Never to Hold Baby

Fenichel gave Rhodes $100 a month and paid for her medical expenses and rent. The teen was told the adoptive couple had waited nine years to have a child.

She promised him she would never see the infant after birth. But the teen couple held and fed the baby for two days, and so when she was discharged, the nun was waiting in the lot to grab the baby and jumped in a car with Fenichel.

Rhodes said Larry collapsed on the ground in despair. They were married in 1983 and said that baby Sara Michelle was never a secret.

In February, Rhodes' daughter Taylor took out a Facebook account for her as Kathleen Akeson Rhodes.

At the same time, Hudson suffered a life-threatening blood clot, and when doctors asked for her medical records and she didn't have any.

So her 29-year-old husband Thomas, a Virginia policeman, launched an 18-month search to identify Rhodes. Hudson said her adoptive parents, who were supportive, remembered the name Akeson.

Hudson then found the Facebook group, Seymour Fenichel Adoptees, which has 389 members, many of whom had reconnected with biological family members. With New York's records closed, they suggested several ways to conduct a search, including the public library.

The Hudsons pored over phone book records on microfilm and found Hudson's biological 81-year-old grandfather who was living in Florida.

After sending a message to Rhodes via Facebook, Hudson made a fateful call to the woman she was convinced was her mother and struck gold.

"My name is Sara and I know you don't know me," said Hudson, reassuring Rhodes it was not a sales call. "I was born in Smithtown in June of 1977."

"You were born June 18th. I know exactly who you are," said Rhodes, nearly cutting her off. "You need to know that I married your biological father and you have four full-blooded sisters."

"That's when I started crying," said Hudson.

"It's amazing, just amazing," said the Facebook group founder Rachel Bernstein, a 27-year-old waitress who is still looking for her own biological mother.

"A lot of people hire someone who costs thousands of dollars and her husband found her at the nearest public library and he was able to piece together her story," she said.

Bernstein is soon to be married and hopes to have children.

"Sara literally could have died," she said. "We deserve our medical history."

Additional reporting by Jessica Hopper.

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