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FATHER BEGINS SERVING PRISON TIME FOR HIS ROLE IN ADOPTION SCHEME INVOLVING UNBORN CHILD

Thomas Vigil has begun serving a one- to 15-year prison term for an adoption scheme.

His wife, Tonya Vigil, 33, is serving six months in jail for her part.The Vigils offered their then-unborn child to three different couples for adoption, taking $6,000 from the victims. They told two of the adoptive families they had a change of heart. A week after the child was born, the Vigils collected $600 from the other family, saying Tonya Vigil was still pregnant.

Thomas Vigil's family was saddened at the prison sentence, but his mother-in-law, Rose Sanchez, said the baby and the Vigils' children will suffer the most.

Sanchez is rearing three of the children - ages 1 1/2, 2 1/2 and 15 - while the couple are incarcerated. Two other teens are in the care of Thomas Vigil's former wife.

"They ask for their mother and dad all the time," Sanchez said of the toddlers. She takes them weekly to the Salt Lake County Jail to see their mother. "But they can't understand why she's behind glass and can't touch them," Sanchez said.

Thomas Vigil, 37, said he was trying to find good parents for the child, and in the end loved the baby too much to give her up.

"It was more a way to make easy money," 3rd District Judge Tyrone E. Medley said at the sentencing hearing. "Mr. Vigil is having a major problem appreciating the wrongfulness of his behavior."

At trial in April, defense attorney Roger Scowcroft argued that the Vigils, uneducated and in dire financial need, were confused by Utah's adoption laws.

State law allows a birth mother to accept charitable donations from adoptive parents. The birth mother is free to change her mind up until the adoption is completed.

Prosecutor Ernie Jones said the Vigils demonstrated a pattern of criminal activity by taking money from three couples between November 1992 and March 1993.

A jury agreed and convicted the couple of three counts of felony theft by deception.

The judge ordered the Vigils to repay $9,100 - the money taken from the victims and attorney fees.