Adoption scammer out of prison after four months
Amber Schulz believes her family is at risk because her biological mother has been transferred from the state women’s prison to a halfway house in Fargo just four months into a four-year sentence for running an adoption scam.
“It’s scary,” said Schulz, of Woodworth, N.D. “I have so many questions and I want the answers. I can’t get them.”
Schulz’s mother is Betty Jo Krenz, who was sentenced in late January to four years in prison for taking money from an Oregon couple under the guise of facilitating an adoption for them. Krenz’s scam was an elaborate hoax that included unsuccessfully trying to secure a baby from a homeless Native American woman while telling the Oregon couple an adoption was a sure thing. She also asked the couple for money, which they gave her.
The couple said they’d been trying to adopt for 18 years, only to learn the child Krenz presented as available for adoption was never available for adoption. And when the couple became suspicious that Krenz wasn’t trustworthy, Krenz invoked the name of murdered pregnant Fargo woman Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind to buy more time.
It was part of a ruse that Judge Cherie Clark of Southeast District Court in Jamestown, N.D., called “one of the most abusive cases I’ve seen.” Clark gave Krenz a sentence far exceeding the recommendation of both prosecutors and defense attorneys, who’d asked for a sentence of one year and one day, with all but nine months suspended.
Krenz was sentenced to four years in prison on a theft of property charge valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, a Class C felony. Clark also gave Krenz 18 months supervised probation and ordered her to pay restitution.
In a separate case, Clark also sentenced Krenz to 30 days in the Stutsman County Correctional Center on theft of property valued at less than $500. It involved Krenz obtaining pepper spray meant for a charity.
After serving her time in Stutsman County, Krenz went to the state women’s prison in late February.
Schulz, who said she cut all ties with Krenz about two years ago because of what she called her mother’s narcissism and manipulation, believed justice had been served.
That changed last week, when Schulz received notice that Krenz had been transferred from the North Dakota Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in New England to Centre, Inc. in Fargo, a non-profit transitional facility that contracts with the state and federal governments to take prisoners nearing the end of their sentences so they can prepare to re-enter society. Centre also offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation to some residents.
Centre has two residential transitional facilities in Fargo. It also has facilities in Grand Forks and Mandan.
“It made me sick to my stomach when I learned what was happening,” Schulz said. “To the point that I puked.”
Schulz said she was told Krenz had been moved because the state women’s prison was full and Krenz was considered a low-risk offender.
The North Dakota Department of Corrections website lists Krenz as a resident of Centre in Fargo and her estimated release date as June 1, 2022. Centre’s website states it only takes inmates who are within two years of their parole eligibility date or discharge date.
Michelle Linster, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, confirmed via email Krenz has been moved to Centre, Inc. She did not confirm Krenz was moved because the women’s prison was full.
“The ND DOCR has an obligation to place individuals in their custody in the least restrictive environment where public safety is maintained,” Linster wrote. “Residents at Centre, Inc. have to have their scheduled approved by case managers; typically this schedule would include employment, religious activity, or an approved community event. Residents are randomly accounted for in the community based on their schedules.”
That freedom is among the things that concerns Schulz, who said Krenz has access to phones and the Internet and has already contacted a friend of Schulz’s asking for help “to make her life more comfortable.”
Schulz posted her thoughts on Facebook — ” I am sick of the justice system,” she wrote — and expanded on them after being reached by phone on Monday, July 1.
“She may not be violent, but she is a narcissist and manipulative. She will con you. She’s already trying to con people,” Schulz said. “The whole reason they put her behind bars in the first place was because of Internet crimes, right? Using the Internet to con people. Now she has access to the Internet? That’s not OK.”
Schulz said Krenz hurt family members for years by conning them. Schulz worries about retaliation because she, along with the person Krenz tried to scam with the possible adoption, gave a victim impact statement at Krenz’s sentencing.
“It’s disturbing to know that she did not and will not receive any consequences to her actions and will not get any treatment for her,” Schulz wrote on Facebook. “The victims get less rights (than) the convicted do as we get conflicting answers and will never get to see justice (for) what she has done to all her victims.”
At one time, Krenz was seen as an expert in Native American affairs. She was asked by then U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (now a U.S. Senator) to testify before a Congressional subcommittee. She appeared in a Cramer campaign television ad in 2014. Regional and national media used Krenz as a source on Indian topics after she was fired from her job as a Spirit Lake Indian Reservation social worker in 2011. She was often portrayed as a whistleblower who was fired because she exposed child-abuse issues.
But Krenz had a long criminal history of forgery, counterfeiting and writing bad checks in North Dakota and the Spirit Lake Tribal Council banned her from the reservation in 2017.
Now that Krenz is in a halfway house, Schulz believes she will strike again.
“It’s only a matter of time,” Schulz said.
Readers can reach Forum columnist Mike McFeely (701) 451-5655.