Previously Sentenced to 11 Years In New York
By Conor Greene
A former Queens woman – already sentenced to nearly 11 years for defrauding New York city and state through an adoption scheme – has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Florida for abusing her children there.
Judith Leekin, 63, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., pleaded no contest last Wednesday to four counts of aggravated child abuse and four counts of aggravated abuse of disabled adults. She was later sentenced to 20 years in prison in accordance with a plea agreement, and under Florida law must serve at least 85 percent before becoming eligible for parole.
Using four aliases, Leekin adopted 11 children while living in Queens between 1988 and 1996. Most of the children had mental or physical disabilities, meaning Leekin received state subsidies to help pay for their care. She moved to Florida with the children in 1998, where she was accused of forcing them to live in squalid conditions and survive on a diet of Ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
A detective from the Port St. Lucie Police Department testified that numerous zip-ties and handcuffs were found at the house and had been used to restrain the children. In addition, the children were forced to sleep in a small storage room, were regularly beaten and denied medical care and schooling.
Leekin apologized several times during the hearing, and according to her attorneys, still loves the children. She entered into the plea agreement to spare the children the ordeal of testifying against her.
However, despite the plea agreement, there are still questions regarding the fate of at least one of the children Leekin adopted. She received money to care for Shane “Moo” Graham for about seven years after he was no longer under her supervision.
According to police, Leekin allegedly was seen taking the boy – who suffers from Down Syndrome, autism and sickle cell anemia and cannot walk or talk – from her apartment in 2000 and then returning without him. Several of the other adopted children told police they thought the boy was dead; police are now seeking the public’s help in finding him.
Last year, Leekin was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison for defrauding New York state and city out of $1.68 million through the adoption scheme.
The abuse allegedly began in Queens, with Leekin forbidding the children from going outside or attending school. Several were restrained in bed to prevent them from getting up. After moving to Florida, the children “lived in a similar manner,” according to authorities.
The Florida judge determined that about half of Leekin’s 20-year sentence will run concurrently with the term she received here last year. She won’t be eligible for parole until she is at least 80 years old.