Prosecutors characterized the plea agreement as a creative solution to an unusual crime, and some parents say prison time would not be appropriate, saying the defendants have their own children.
The government "believes that the best interests of the children [and finding a way to achieve that interest] trumps the concept of punishment alone," prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.
"We have victims on both sides of this adoption scheme, all of whom acted in good faith," said U.S. Attorney Brett Tolson. "Birth parents in Samoa believed they were sending their children to take advantage of opportunities in the United States. …Samoan families did not view the placement as permanent. They thought their kids would come home."
But it's difficult to say what is best for the children.
For now, most of the children remain with their American families, many of whom are terrified that the criminal case will allow the Samoan families to nullify the adoptions. U.S. officials told ABC News that they did not think the adoptions would be disrupted.
Patti Sawyer, a single mother from Wisconsin, said she had no idea that the little girl she fell in love with came from a loving family.
"When I was first introduced to my daughter I was told she was found in a public bathroom. In reality, she was from a very happy family, eight brothers and sisters, who turned her over to give her an opportunity," she said.
Sawyer said she is concerned that if she takes her daughter back to Samoa to visit her biological family, she may not be able to bring her back to the U.S. She is hoping to convince the girl's Samoan family to let her finish her education here, visit home, and share her life with two sets of parents.
"I've told her she has a mom and dad in Samoa. They love her. She has two families," said Sawyer. "She says I want to see my family. She says she doesn't remember her brothers and sisters or the games they used to play."
Of the families who were involved in the case, only Nyberg has sent his child back to her family in Samoa.
Nyberg said the decision to return Elleia to her family in Samoa was "excruciating," yet he knew it was the right thing to do. "To see the tears when they came around the corner and saw that little girl, and to know how much they missed her. It was just a great experience to have that reunion," he said.
But he now says he feels like the girl's birth parents are members of his own family.
"The beautiful thing is I have developed a strong relationship with this family on the opposite side of the world," he said. "Her parents are my brother and sister. We have a daughter we share.... She is truly my little girl and to not have her with me is a really difficult thing, but I know that she is where she needs to be right now."