Governor Northam signs legislation prompted by Scott County adoption hoax case

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Elizabeth Ann Jones pleaded guilty to fraud charges after investigators say she faked a pregnancy to defraud a California couple.

RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia Governor Northam has signed legislation inspired by an elaborate adoption hoax case in Scott County in 2019.

According to a release from the governor’s office, Senate Bill 1003 was introduced by Wise County Commonwealth Attorney Chuck Slemp after a California couple fell victim to a hoax in which Elizabeth Jones of Scott County faked a pregnancy and led them to believe they could adopt the nonexistent child.

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Matt and Laura Trayte, the California couple, spent money on meals, gifts and other services for Jones, allowing her to be charged in court after the hoax was revealed.

However, had Jones not benefited financially from the hoax, she would not have been able to be charged with anything.

Jones later told her probation officer that the scheme had been executed for attention, and she said “I wanted someone to feel pain other than me.”

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The release says the legislation closes “a legal loophole that allows an individual to maliciously use an internet-capable device to perpetrate costly and potentially devastating fraud on unsuspecting victims.”

The legislation, referred to as”Trayte’s Law” by Slemp in the release, allows prosecutors to charge people who attempt similar scams without benefiting financially.

The wording of the new law is as follows in Virginia Code Section 18.2-152.7:2:

“Any person who, without the intent to receive any direct or indirect benefit, maliciously sends an electronically transmitted communication containing a false representation intended to cause another person to spend money, and such false representation causes such person to spend money, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

The maximum punishment of a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia is serving up to 12 months of jail time and a fine of up to $2,500.

Larua Trayte said in the release, “The day we waited in the hospital for the baby that never existed could have easily broken us, and understandably so. We could have returned back to our home in California defeated and suffering in silence. But, in our grief and shock, we picked up the phone and started making calls to law enforcement, press, and anyone else who would listen. Our mission was to make sure that Elizabeth Jones was held accountable for her actions. We also wanted to turn something horrible into something good by bringing awareness to this type of adoption fraud. Now, we hope that this legislation will become law so that no one else suffers the pain and heartache that we have experienced.”

Trayte’s Law goes into effect on July 1, 2020.

You can read the entire release below:

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