Convicted adoption-agency head sent to jail

BOULDER, Colo. –

Since police began investigating Lisa Novak’s Boulder-based adoption agency, she’s lost her business, her livelihood and her home, and Novak’s family on Friday begged a judge not to punish her further by sending her to jail.

Boulder County District Court Judge Maria E. Berkenkotter denied that petition and sentenced Novak, 48, to 90 days in Boulder County Jail, 12 years of probation and 100 hours community service. Novak â who has moved to Maine with her husband and six children â also must pay back the tens of thousands of dollars she stole from families through her now-defunct Claar Foundation adoption agency.

As part of her probation, Novak was prohibited from doing any adoption-related work or running her own business.

The former Erie trustee was convicted by a jury in December of fraud, two counts of theft of $20,000 or more and theft between $1,000 and $20,000 â all felonies. She could have faced more than 31 years in prison.

Novak is appealing her conviction, and her family and attorney again argued Friday that she didn’t mean to defraud anyone, but that some adoptions didn’t work out because of a slumping business climate, changing international environment.

Prosecutors said Novak’s insistence that she did nothing wrong is exactly why she should be jailed.

“She still seems to claim no deceit here, but when you consider the evidence, the deceit was massive,” prosecutor Michael Foote said. “Novak is not an unlucky business person, she’s a thief.”

Novak’s family members said two of her adopted daughters are struggling apart from their mother and can’t handle losing her for three months, but Foote asked why Novak should be different than other convicted felons.

“I don’t think Novak should get a ‘get out of jail free card’ because she has a family,” Foote said.

Novak, who had not commented on the allegations since being charged, spoke in court Friday â at times through tears â about how she made mistakes but never had any ill intent.

“I now regret many of the choices we made,” Novak said. “But they were not made with criminal intent and were not criminal acts.”

Novak said she tried to do too much and please too many people, and years after starting her business she was diagnosed with an illness that made her weak, exhausted and unable to do her job as she had before.

“I didn’t realize how sick I was,” she said.

Martin Claar, Novak’s husband, said he was as involved in the business as his wife, and Novak shouldn’t have been the only person “chased” by prosecutors. She became the face of the business, he said, because she worked tirelessly with international agencies and clients.

Claar said he blames himself for the company’s struggles, but doesn’t think his wife did anything criminal.

“The only remorse I feel is that we kept working and sacrificed too much for other people,” he said.

But adoptive parent Linda Carlson-Singh told the court Friday that Novak is a skilled white-collar crook and liar who took tens of thousands of dollars from her family and stood in the way of her adoptions.

She said Novak caused her son to remain in an orphanage for months after being told his parents were coming to get him, and now he suffers from migraines, nightmares and anxiety.

“Every day he pleads, ‘You’re not gonna leave me, are you mama?'” she told the court.

After Friday’s sentencing, Carlson-Singh said she was glad Novak won’t be able to hurt more families.

“But this is all so sad,” she said. “Justice would be if this never happened in the first place.”

Archived comments

Seems like a light sentence to me.

springerwannab

2/6/2009 4:25:57 PM

who asked you?

republican_ecologist

2/6/2009 4:34:34 PM

Theft and fraud. Nice. Not.

Payback is hell, and in this economy it really will be for Ms. Novak.

WesternSky

2/6/2009 6:05:05 PM

stealing from families trying to adopt kids… there’s a special place in hell for people like this.

johnredcorn

2/6/2009 7:10:02 PM

Another example of the femake discount?

phoenix_rises

2/6/2009 8:20:30 PM

Maybe she can get work at one of those no-limit In Vitro Fertilization Clinics where they implant embryos in six at a time.

Ezekiel_2517

2/6/2009 8:38:34 PM

after reading all your comments it furthers the notion that we really area lynchmob town

tootalltony

2/6/2009 10:00:44 PM

So who’s been lynched in Boulder lately ?

Ezekiel_2517

2/6/2009 11:22:30 PM

Let’s see. Steal 30 thousand, pay it back and go to jail. Steal 300 billion, bring the global financial system to brink of collapse like AIG and get a taxpayer bailout, corporate bonus, business jet, and a Las Vegas vacation. Ain’t justice great?

digby

2/7/2009 6:12:45 AM

We used Claar foundation and had no problenms whatsoever.Their contract was the same as the other agencies we researched.There are NO GUARANTEES you will ever get your child.They facilitate adoptions, not promise you will get an adoption. It is an emotionally supercharged process, no doubt about it.Countries change the adoption laws all the time, we had to wait an extra 9 months until Russia approved NGO status of many U.S. adoption agencies. That was 9 motnsh afte we intially met our child on the 1st trip. What I heard in the Claar case is that the Singh’s lied on their ppwrk (she lied that she had cancer, which is some countries, makes you ineligible to adopt a child, also Guatemala changed their laws as well). So, if the Singh’s lied on their contract, should they get their money back?Also, some of the people refused to have post adoption home studies that are required by the foreign country…not by Claar or the U.S.These numb nuts then make it difficult for other U.S. families to adopt from these foreign countries because they did not follow through as promised contractualy.One family in Boulder said the post adoption placement meetings “infringed on their personal rights” and the dumb@$$ judge agreed with them!Since law does not follow logic but precedence, this could start a landslide of “me too’s” in Boulder county that adopt from foreign countries and simply do not want to participate in the post adoption follow up that is required by the foreign country.The prosecuting attorney did a great job showing the ’emotion’ of the adoption process and played it very well.Claar’s defense attorney missed this opportunity to call defense witnesses and at least talk about their positive adoption experiences with Claar foundation.It’s one thing if you sign and understand a contract and all the risks involved.If not comfortable, don’t sign it.And for God’s sake, DON’T LIE ON IT as the Singh’s did.As one person posted stealing from adoptive families there is a place in hell for Lisa Novak…how about the Singh’s and their deceptive nature?

Laxman18

2/7/2009 9:04:32 AM

We also used Claar foundation and I feel that the lack of information gave me unnecessary anxiety.Lisa Novak gave a lot of information on Guatemala in December 2006 at an informational meeting. It became clear later in the adoption process that the information given in December was actually 6 months old and the process had slowed down significantly by December but it was not conveyed honestly. That was deceit to attract people into the system.Never did I feel that honestly was a part of the Claar foundation if it was not convenient.When I checked on our federal fingerprint records they told me that they were not processed because Claar foundation did not pay their bill.This was about the same time that we had to sign a paper from Claar foundation saying we would not let our anxiety manifest asanger against them or our contract would benullified.Lastly she owes me $250 which I will never see.I agree that adoption is a supercharged process, but if things were not so secretive and deceitful I don’t think she would have been in the court system at all as a defendant.She was not innocent.

clover

2/7/2009 11:15:49 AM

Like most people I know, I think the judge did a good job in providing a balanced sentencing in this case. Lisa Novak’s sentencing could have been for yearsâ ¦ instead of a couple of months of jail.

Let’s face it; the bottom line is Novak didn’t pay the Guatemala orphanage from the monies she received from the parents in this case. Don’t all orphans count? Or should only certain orphanages (in certain countries) get the funds promised to them, but not others?

Novak had these parent’s files and monies all along; and she didn’t return those files back to them as well as not sending the monies to the Guatemala orphanage either. If she had, she would have shown the proof during her trial.Come on wake up, who steals monies from orphans?? She may not be the worst “sinner,” but she is certainly no “saint.”

Fact: Lisa Novak was found guilty by a Boulder Jury (12 people) on 4 different counts regarding 3 families; so all these families are liars? This jury took their time to find Lisa Novak guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” regarding these 4 felonies.

So now the JURY system doesn’t count? (You think the Boulder jury was just made up of a bunch of idiots who were just taken in by these so called “liars.”)It was obviously proven that Novak never accounted for funds she received by them.

Where were all the people who want to paint Novak as a saint now, during her trial?

It doesn’t take much effort for anyone to lash out at victims after the fact (the trial), calling them liars, deceptive, crazy, dark clouds, etc. etcâ ¦ when someone has already been found guilty by a jury of their peers. Or do we only believe in a justice system when it goes our way?

guy75

2/7/2009 12:21:03 PM

These people not only conducted an ongoing criminal enterprise through their adoption front, they treated many people badly, in the US and in the countries that our children came from. Many in-country professionals did work for which Novak did not pay them, but the families here paid her. It’s very difficult to prove white collar fraud, so even these few convictions shows how much evidence there was against her. Other adoptions all went through, except Claar – she kept money paid rather than pay the host country people. Where did all the money go that they stole from clients? This amount in restitution is a fraction of all the money she took fraudulently.

Sunman

2/7/2009 12:42:41 PM

It seems to me that if a potential sentence could have run 31 years, 90 days is a walk in the park. Her kids will survive..period. What a shame for the people who were victims of the fraud.

RedCape

2/7/2009 3:09:07 PM

It is so sad how the justice system works and how this story does not even begin to touch to evil that Lisa Novak cast on people.She was in a business of bringing families together and all my husband and I felt was that she would do anything to keep us apart.The awful things that she said and did to us could never be punishable in any court.I feel sorry for the Singh’s and any other families that crossed her path.I have never in my life encounter someone with so much selfishness and greed to steal from people and never once say she is sorry.I am so glad I will never have to deal with or hear about Lisa Novak again.Good Bye!

milojake

2/7/2009 4:21:46 PM

How come the Longmont Times Call’s reporter Scott Rochat was the only one who was able to do a detailed coverage of Lisa Novak’s sentencing? While the Boulder’s Daily Camera’s reporter, Vanessa Miller, only talked about fluff?Here’s the link to Scott report:

http://www.timescall.com/news_story.asp?ID=14310

Scott added the judge’s sentencing statement, whereas Vanessa Miller failed to do so.

Vanessa Miller made this criminal sound like a Saint, in her opening Boulder news statement. (If you recall, Novak was convicted by a Boulder Jury in December 2008, of 4 counts of felony theft.)

Here is a quote from the judge, per reporter Scott Rochat (Longmont Times Call):

Boulder District Judge Maria Berkenkotter said Novak also must repay her victims and perform 100 hours of community service. The judge denied a request to postpone the sentence until after an appeal is resolved.

“I do have concerns … that this is not a case of simple poor decision-making,” Berkenkotter told Novak at the sentencing. “Some of your statements suggest that you may not understand the impact of your conduct. … What was stolen in this case went beyond money. You stole families’ trust and, in some cases, their ability to adopt a child.”

Good job Scott, keep up the good work â ¦ — I’m glad Boulder County still has some straight shooting reporters.

guy75

2/8/2009 10:00:59 AM

If you followed this case, you’d see that it is not as clear-cut as some of these postings make out. Some of you are describing Lisa Novak as evil, as running an “ongoing criminal enterprise,” and other hateful things that have no basis in the facts.

What I heard and read during this trial is this:when the DA had Novak arrested, he hadn’t even begun his investigation. AFTER his investigation, he still couldn’t find any proof that any money went to Novak personally.The families in question all received a lot of adoption services from Claar.And one of the people, Linda Sing, lied to the agency in her paperwork (if she lied then, what else has she lied about to achieve her goals?).The DA’s main case, Carol Kuzdeck, proved to be complete nonsense, as did most of the charges against Novak.One of the police witnesses said that she didn’t think Novak stole anything, but her lawyer suggested she say that to the police. One family has their adoption still waiting for them to complete, and they were actually awarded a guilty verdict! Linda Sing said in the paper that Novak stole from orphans, but nobody ever gave any evidence of this.The only thing here is an argument over a payment to a lawyer in Guatemala, NOT to an orphanage (and if you believe that this money would have gone to orphans, you are naive or stupid). And the jury actually agreed that one of the families is entitled to money that was paid as a donation, and that the person who made this donation never asked for a refund or showed up for the trial.

The justice system IS broken, and this case is a good example of why and how.The court violated Novak’s constitutional rights by not bringing two of the complaining witness at trial – the fact that this happened in this country is a disgrace, and regardless of what you think about Novak, the FACT is that the DA never really proved his case, and both the judge and the jury should be ashamed at the result, and we, the public, should be outraged and demand reform of our legal system.

tannyman123

2/17/2009 9:08:25 PM

Having lived in Boulder County for decades, I’ve noticed that a judge in liberal Democratic Boulder does not give any prison sentence unless they feelthat the person they were sentencing was guilty of the crimes a jury had convicted them of.

Obviously the previous writer wasn’t in court to hear the expert witnesses who testified that Novak had funneled moneyâ ¦ and that there were a lot more than just two or three families who were victims; about nine families testified in this case. I heard several more families chose not to come forward due to fear and retaliation from Novak.

It seems to me that Novak got away pretty easy; since she could have gotten a lot stiffer sentence than just 90 days in jail and probation. I guess white collar crimes (against kids and well intended people who want to adopt a kid, or anyone else) are so common place today that people think these criminals should just get a slap on the wrist?

So, now it is okay to ignore testimony? Put down people who take their time to do jury duty? Insult judges? Blame victims? If Novak had stolen money from a puppy fund, orprevented puppies from getting a good home and left them in the cold, with no food or futureâ ¦bet you’d sing a different tune.

kariana

2/17/2009 11:24:13 PM

I was in court for some of the trial, read about the rest of it and had first-hand information from others who were in court, so don’t try to spin what happened.Novak did NOT “funnel money,” the so-called “expert” tried to cast doubt about some of the financial records, but testified that she could NOT prove illegal activity, and Novak’s lawyer pointed out that the books were audited and found to be clean.And as for the judge, the victims were asking for a sentence of 32 years, yet the prosecutors themselves endorsed the 90 day sentence.The message seemed to be that there WAS some doubt in this case.

Of the “other families” you refer to, they were found by the same jury to have no case, so why are you still calling them victims?Perhaps you’re one of them?!And what kind of “retaliation” could this woman possibly take?She and her family lost everything with the closing of the agency.If she was the powerful mover/shaker and manipulator they claim, why is it that the prosecutor admitted she didn’t personally take a cent, didn’t benefit in any way from this supposed “theft?”

The police tried this woman in the press long before she saw the inside of a courtroom, with the Camera playing along like a starry-eyed puppy slobbering over a juicy story, and from the hoards of letters over the past months, everyone in town went into this trial seeing her guilty until proven innocent, which is what the jury seemed to do, too.

This case was about a failed business and what happens with the resulting debts.Every small business owner in America, ESPECIALLY every one in Colorado, should be worried, because this case just sent the message that any debt left at the folding of a business is now criminal.

tannyman123

2/18/2009 5:57:01 PM

should have been 12 years in jail and 90 days probation – incompetence and stupidity are no reason for misallocating other people’s money and emothions.

davecorman@hotmail.com

3/8/2009 10:28:32 AM

So, Mr. Corman, you believe and support our government arresting people without evidence (then working like mad to find something to hand their hats on), ignoring due process and our constitution in order to get a conviction (no need to actually produce the alleged “victims” in court or anywhere else – just trust us, someone had something stolen, we just won’t actually produce the person to testify and be cross-examined, and by the way, the judge is in the same pocket that we are…), changing its story and its allegations right up to their closing arguments (and the jury bought it!).If this is what our system and our society’s beliefs have come to, then its time that those of us who loved what America USED to stand for to take this country back from the fanatics and lunatics who are destroying it.Novak may have completely bungled the operation of her business financially, but is not criminal (oh, wait, apparently, in Boulder, now it is – I guess the message to all other business owners is, succeed or go to jail…).

tannyman123

4/1/2009 7:53:32 AM

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