"They think they are adopting children who wouldn't otherwise be cared for," he said. "In all honesty, they think they are doing a good thing. But the truth is, none of them had to be adopted out. There are no homeless children in the Marshall Islands."

A trip to Hawaii

In August, nine months after the recruiting of pregnant women was barred in the Marshall Islands, a new group of Marshallese mothers-to-be arrived, telling similar stories, at the apartment complex where Johnny stayed.

"They came to us," said Rosalina Anjerok, 24, of the facilitators who recruited her for Adoption Choices, put her on a Continental Airlines flight to Honolulu, then checked her into an apartment a few doors down from where Johnny was housed in Honolulu's Red Hills district, next to a U.S. military reservation.

Anjerok shared the apartment with another pregnant Marshallese, Marianne Lomae, 22.

"It's a very attractive thing ... to promise them a trip to Hawaii," Roby said.

As an added inducement, Anjerok said, a facilitator allowed a daughter to accompany her to Hawaii for treatment of a hearing problem.

Kimber Lee Liu, a volunteer at Southern Adoptions, said her agency was boarding eight mothers at Moanalua apartments in early August. "It varies," she said, "but we never have more than 12 at a time."

A rival agency, Adoption Choices, was boarding four women at the complex. One young Marshallese was recuperating at the hospital after childbirth.

Usually, birth mothers are matched with adoptive parents before the babies are born. Johnny said she met the new parents at the hospital but never learned their names.

There is a trip to the courthouse for the adoption proceeding.

Johnny, records show, was represented by Honolulu lawyer Raymond F. Zeason, who operates out of the same Ward Avenue office suite as Carl F. Debo, the attorney for Adoption Choices.

Taking mothers

Until a baby is born and adoption papers are signed, mothers are fair game for raids by rival recruiters.

Lane L. Lanny, a government official who works as a facilitator for Lach, accused Adoption Choices of raiding birth mothers. "They took some of ours away," he said.

Virginia Frank, the founder of Adoption Choices, did not reply to repeated telephone calls placed to her office in Evergreen, Colo.

Lach has been fending off charges that she took four pregnant women from Southern Adoptions, saying that she stepped in only to save them from mistreatment.

Last month, in a flurry of e-mail posted on RMI-kids - an Internet chat group for those who have adopted or are interested in adopting Marshallese children - Lach wrote that Kathy Lahr, the executive director of Southern Adoptions, had left her a scolding telephone message that said, "You don't break into a person's place and steal their THINGS."

"Unfortunately, that is how SA views the birth moms it works with. Things," Lach wrote.

"I will say only that I was contacted by relatives of some of the women being kept in Honolulu by SA, and asked to help them. They (the women and the relatives) felt they were being treated badly, and asked for our assistance."