Adoption Scams, Part 1: Meet Melissa

In Her Own Words

Note: Since this interview, Melissa has agreed to allow the Dr. Phil show reveal her face.

 

Dr. Phil greets Melissa and shakes her hand.


"Why did you agree to come?" he asks her.

"Mainly, because I would really like to have the chance to apologize to Crissy," she says, "to be able to look at her and tell her that I'm sorry and ... I don't understand how my brain works. I don't understand why I do what I do."

Dr. Phil says, "I want to tell you, I think it's a real step in the right direction for you to be here because you've hurt a lot of people and coming here and being willing to face up to it, deal with it, and acknowledge it is a huge step in the right direction. And I really commend you for that. I do. You didn't have to do it, and you did. And I just tell you that's a step in the right direction, and it takes courage to do it.

 

"What I want you to do is go all the way," he continues. "I don't want you to halfway do this. You've come all of this way. I want you to show your face. I want you to walk with me outside to the set and talk to these women and face up to it so that you can walk out of here today saying, 'OK, I stepped up and did it. I stepped up and looked these women in the eye. I've put that chapter behind me. I owed it to them to let them get closure. I've given them the only gift I have left to give them.' And I think that's something that you can really be proud of. It's that huge step through the wall that you need to do. Will you do that with me?"

"My problem with showing my face on TV is that I don't live in L.A.," says Melissa. "I live in a small community. My son, he asked me on the way out here if his friends were going to see this on TV, if his friends' parents are going to see this on TV. I've humiliated him time and time again. I humiliated him by having the FBI come search our house. I don't want to humiliate him any more."

Dr. Phil offers Melissa a compromise. "Will you come out and face these women, and we won't show your face?"

"I have a real problem talking to Marie, just because I've read everything that she said about me," says Melissa. "I don't believe that anything good would come of that."

"You scammed her, true?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Yes. Yeah," Melissa confirms.

 

Dr. Phil says, "You scammed her. There's no debate about that. You know that you did. There may not be anything good come of it for you, but I can tell you for Marie, for Jen, there will be something good that will come of it for them. It's something you can do for them to let them get closure on this."

"I'm not going to apologize to Jen when I don't remember her," Melissa says.

"I'm not asking you to commit to saying anything; I'm just asking you to go out and look these ladies in the eye. Be enough of a person to own what you did and look them in the eye." He asks Melissa why she did what she did.

"To feel special to somebody," she confides. "To feel like somebody in this world gave a sh** if I was alive or dead."

"You had to know it was coming to an end," Dr. Phil says.

"You know, I don't understand that," Melissa tells him. "I don't understand how my mind works, how I made it OK in my head but, as much as reality-wise I knew that it had to come to an end, somehow I didn't have to face that. I made my own reality. I didn't face reality as everyone else sees it. I made my own little, I don't know, alternate universe of good things."

"These are women who so desperately wanted to give to a child and love a child and nurture a child and make a home for a child," says Dr. Phil. "You just crushed all of their hopes, their dreams, their heart, their feelings, to entertain yourself?"

"It wasn't to entertain myself," Melissa says. "You know, at the end of it, I cried just as hard as Crissy did. And I can't explain it. I cannot explain how it worked inside my head because I don't understand it myself. But reality told me that it was going to end badly. There was absolutely no way that it was going to end even decent. But I was just on my little alternate thing. I didn't think of the consequences whatsoever. Not for myself or for them."

Dr. Phil points out that Melissa could go to jail, though that's not why Marie, Jen and Crissy have come. "They just want to talk to you. They just feel that need to talk to you. They need to hear you say that this was wrong to do. They need that. Why do you deny them that?"

"I will give that to Crissy," she says. "Crissy came to me with compassion, whether I deserved it or not. She showed me kindness, and she just wanted answers. She didn't go on the attack. She just wanted answers, and I answered all of her questions."

"You're being judgmental about these people being ugly with you after what you did?" Dr. Phil asks incredulously. "I mean, come on. Wouldn't you be ugly if somebody had done this to you?"

"I'm sure I would," Melissa says.

"Aren't they entitled to that?" he asks.

Melissa shrugs. "I don't know what they're entitled to."

"So, you'd rather see [Marie, Crissy and Jen] in a courtroom," says Dr. Phil. "You'd rather see them in a jailhouse."

"If that's what's going to happen, that's what's going to happen regardless of if I go out there and talk to them or not," says Melissa. "The FBI raided my house."

Dr. Phil tells her, "You said, 'I have been terrified to put the truth in writing. I'm scared of prosecution.' Crissy says, 'I just need to know if the baby was ever real.' And you say, 'No, he wasn't.' You made this up. You had them paint the nurseries."

 

"I don't recall ever asking people to paint nurseries," she says. "I'm sure nurseries were painted. But I don't recall ever requesting them to be painted."

 

"Are you sorry for this?" asks Dr. Phil. When Melissa says that she is, Dr. Phil asks why.

"I hurt a lot of people, a lot of people who didn't deserve to be hurt, especially not in the way that I hurt them. I exploited their desperation and their weaknesses for my own personal reasons, for my own personal gain " not necessarily monetarily, but just to feel important to these people."

"But that's a fraud on yourself," Dr. Phil explains. "It's a fraudulent feeling for yourself. It's a fraud on them, clearly. You've committed fraud on these people. You lied to them, misrepresented to them, just broke their hearts. But it's also a false thing with you, don't you agree?" Melissa nods in agreement as Dr. Phil continues, "Because they're loving who you aren't. You used false names, false babies. The whole thing was a fiction. You've totally defrauded yourself as well, right?"

"I know that," she says. "Yes, I have."

Dr. Phil says of Marie, "She thought she was going to have a baby in her hands four days ago. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid is going to happen if you face her?"

"I'm afraid of what she'll say," says Melissa.

"What do you think she's going to say?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I think she will insult me to no end, and I don't want to face that. Nobody in this world can think anything worse of me than I think of myself."


"So what have you got to lose?" asks Dr. Phil.

"I don't want to hear it," she says. "I don't want to hear it. I'll carry that with me for the rest of my life. I'll carry all of her words with me for the rest of my life. At some point I may be willing to face her, but today is not that day."

Dr. Phil tells her, "I'm disappointed that you're cheating yourself out of that because I think it would help you to get it behind you. I think it would help you to get it behind you."

"If I thought it would get it behind me, I believe I would do it, but it won't do anything " "

"Well, you've been leaning on your own understanding for a good while," Dr. Phil interjects, "and it hasn't gotten you a very clear compass, right?" Melissa concedes that this is true. "But it is what it is. That's where you are, then that's where you are. But you need to know I think you're making a mistake."