The plaintiffs were removed from the Florida home of Judith Leekin in 2007.
The plaintiffs were removed from the Florida home of Judith Leekin in 2007. ()

Special needs children who sued placement agencies after being abused for years by a fraudster who adopted them have reached a $17.5 million dollar settlement with the agencies.

Plaintiffs in S.W. v. City of New York, 09-cv-01777, asked for judicial approval of the settlement. New York City settled its portion of the suit in 2012 for $9.7 million.

Florida authorities removed the children from adoptive mother Judith Leekin’s home in 2007. Leekin’s scheme started in New York City decades earlier, where she used bogus identities and documents to adopt the children and gain access to child care subsidies.

She is incarcerated, based on federal convictions in the Southern District and state convictions in Florida.

Ten of the 11 adopted children sued the agencies and the city for not properly screening Leekin or identifying her inconsistencies. In January, Eastern District Judge Eric Vitaliano (See Profile) partially denied the agencies’ summary judgment bid, pointing to various factual questions (NYLJ, Feb. 6). Vitaliano concluded two of the 10 children could not press claims against the agencies.

According to Monday’s filing, the agencies will split the sum between the remaining eight plaintiffs. More than half the money from the city settlement went to settling the claims of the two plaintiffs whom Vitaliano later excused.

The parties will bear their own costs and legal fees under the agreement, which was reached during mediation in June.

Though a number of attorneys were involved, the mediation agreement was signed for the plaintiffs by Howard Talenfeld, a shareholder at Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Steven Ahmuty Jr., of Shaub Ahmuty Citrin & Spratt in Lake Success signed the agreement for the agency defendants.