Two known prostitutes posed as representatives of a local social service agency to help abduct two children from a foster home and return them to their parents, authorities believe.
Both the Erie County district attorney's office and Buffalo police are trying to locate the parents of the children, one of whom had been severely beaten, allegedly by relatives.
Authorities say the children were abducted during what was falsely portrayed as a supervised parental visit more than a month ago.
The scam reportedly involved two known prostitutes posing as representatives of a Hispanic community organization selected by Erie County Family Court officials to supervise the parental visits during pending court proceedings, according to law enforcement sources close to the probe.
No arrests have been made.
Authorities fear the biological parents, who had lived on the West Side, already may have left the Buffalo area with the children.
Erie County Social Services Commissioner Michael Weiner, who referred the matter to law enforcement officials, and Rosanne Eimer Johnson, head of the Erie County district attorney's Sexual Assault Bureau, confirmed the investigation is under way, but declined to comment further.
Erie County Family Court and court-appointed law guardians for the two children and spokesmen for the Buffalo Police Sex Offense Squad all declined to comment.
The criminal probe began after the foster couple, who had been caring for the two children at their Buffalo home under a Family Court appointment, called the court for help after returning home and finding the children missing after what they thought was going to be a routine parental visit.