SHE traded two young children in her care for a pet cockatoo and US$175 ($270) cash from a couple who had been trying for a child for years.
The Louisiana authorities in the US said on Thursday that Donna Greenwell, 53, a long-haul trucker with an arrest record, has been charged with aggravated kidnapping.
The would-be adoptive parents Paul Romero, 46, and Brandy Lynn Romero, 27, were also charged.
The children were left with Greenwell over a year ago by their mother.
'The Romeros had good intentions from what we see,' said Mr Keith Dupre, a detective with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office.
'They really wanted to take care of the kids. The kids were well-dressed and seemed to be treated well by the Romero family.'
The transaction for the 5-year-old boy and the 4-year-old girl was negotiated by phone after Greenwell spotted a flier posted at a livestock barn offering a cockatoo for US$1,500. She then called the Romeros on 18 Feb, Mr Dupre said.
Although Paul Romero had three children from a previous marriage, Mr Dupre said the couple had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child together.
When they told Greenwell that, she allegedly offered to hand over the children for about US$2,000.
When the Romeros said they couldn't meet the price, Mr Dupre said: 'Ms Greenwell agreed to make an even trade: the bird for the kids'.
Greenwell showed up with the children at the Romeros' home the next day and said she would also need US$175 for an attorney to complete adoption paperwork, Mr Dupre said.
Everything began to unravel last week when the authorities received a phone tip that the Romeros and the children would be at a local fast-food restaurant, where the authorities approached them.
The children are now in state custody.
The authorities believe Greenwell began caring for the children about a year ago at the mother's request. The children's father was questioned and has expressed interest in getting custody of the children.
The mother is believed to be in Texas but told investigators through a relative that she plans to head to Evangeline Parish soon. The state would decide whether the parents can visit or gain custody of the children.
The authorities are checking a claim made to a police officer by the children that they have been sexually and physically abused, although not by Greenwell or the Romeros.
The Romeros were freed on US$5,000 bond.
Greenwell, who has an extensive arrest record including charges of kidnapping, assault and theft, remained in jail on US$100,000 bond, Mr Dupre said.
She turned herself in on Sunday.
Police in Glenmora, near where Greenwell lives, are seeking information from anyone who might know if Greenwell has sold other children.
'She's had numerous children living with her at various times over the years,' said Officer Jennifer Potter, who received the anonymous telephone tip that eventually led to the arrests. -- AP.