HOUSTON, Texas — Janet Killough Barreto was on the U.S. Marshal’s 15 Most Wanted list for allegedly torturing children that she had adopted in Central America. Police pursued her for five years and finally caught her in a Portland, Oregon shopping mall.
43-year-old Barreto and her husband Ramon allegedly adopted children from Guatemala on two occasions–in 2005 and 2006–according to a a press release from the U.S. Marshal’s Service obtained by Breitbart Texas. After bringing the kids to their home, the couple allegedly abused and starved them. Reports additionally state that some of the children were forced to sleep on plywood beds.
Ultimately, one of the adopted Central Americans–a 2-year-old girl–passed away as the result of the alleged abuse.
The Marshals Service statement said, “The children were purportedly often punished with beatings and on various occasions duct-taped to their beds, punched in the stomach, and forced to endure having their heads submerged under water.”
U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton added in a statement, “Janet Barreto is a malicious individual. Through her alleged crimes, Barreto demonstrated a blatant disregard and lack of respect for life other than her own. I am greatly appreciative of the extraordinary efforts made by our dedicated men and women in apprehending one of our most wanted fugitives.”
Prior to her most recent arrest, Barreto had previously been arrested for the apparent abuse two times. Once in 2008 and again in 2009. Both times, she was released from custody on bond. She reportedly never showed up for her court hearing to face the pending charges.
After Barreto evaded law enforcement for nearly five years, a tip from a “concerned citizen” living in Mississippi revealed that she and her husband were living in Oregon.
The couple was arrested in a Portland mall earlier this week, CNN reported. At first, they were apparently uncooperative with authorities–but eventually, after their identities were confirmed, they were taken into custody. An infant was reportedly found in Barreto’s custody and placed in child protective services.
Barreto’s alleged crimes highlight the danger foreign children may face after being placed with unknown adults.
Recently thousands of Central American children–almost all of whom crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally since October 2013–have been placed in “sponsor” homes around the nation by federal authorities.
Breitbart Texas previously revealed how easy it is to become a sponsor. The federal government additionally provides financial incentives for sponsors to take in as many children as possible, often paying them thousands of dollars per month to care for young foreigners. It is often up to foster services to find adults who wish to take minors into their homes.
Crittenton Foster Care and Catholic Charities are two such organizations. Crittenton recently placed an advertisement in the Penny Saver Newspaper in Murrieta, California asking for “loving, compassionate parents to provide a loving home” for illegal immigrant minors. It said, “Help heal the wounds … for children in foster care programs including survivors of human trafficking and unaccompanied refugee minors. Reimbursements up to $6,054 monthly tax free.”
Breitbart Texas spoke with a spokeswoman from Crittenton, who made it clear that almost anyone can become a foster parent and start collecting benefits.
The spokeswoman claimed that in order to be considered, prospective foster parents must “have one bedroom available with furniture in it, pass a background check, and provide a driver’s license.”
Given how apparently easy it is for a U.S. adult to become a sponsor, one could easily surmise that the foreign minors could be at risk of abuse or exploitation.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.