updated 3/6/2009 7:01:42 PM ET 2009-03-07T00:01:42

The lawyer for a Louisiana woman accused of swapping two children for an exotic bird and $175 in cash said Friday that the charge is false.

Attorney Timmy Fontenot said his client, Donna Greenwell, 53, had good intentions and rejected media reports making her out to be a "monster."

"Donna was simply trying to find a good home for children abandoned to her care, and the facts will substantiate this," Fontenot said.

Greenwell, a long-haul trucker from the central Louisiana town of Pitkin, remained in jail on a $100,000 bond on two counts of sale of minor children. The couple who allegedly bought the children face the same charges and have been freed on $5,000 bond each.

The 5-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl, who are in state custody, had been placed in Greenwell's care by their mother last year, authorities said.

Investigators in Evangeline Parish in south Louisiana said the alleged swap was negotiated last month by Greenwell after she spotted a flier at a livestock barn offering a cockatoo for $1,500. She called the couple — Paul J. Romero, 46, and Brandy Lynn Romero, 27 of Evangeline Parish — and allegedly offered to deliver the boy and girl for about $2,000.

When the Romeros said they couldn't meet the price — according to the account given by investigator Keith Dupre — Greenwell allegedly agreed to trade the bird for the children. Dupre said Greenwell later allegedly asked for $175 in cash to cover any legal fees to complete the handover.

Dupre has said investigators believe the Romeros had "good intentions" and the children appeared well-cared for. Although Paul Romero had three children from a previous marriage, he and Brandy had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child together, Dupre added.

Fontenot said the Romeros gave the bird to Greenwell's granddaughter. "No way shape or form was there any exchange for anything," the lawyer said.

Greenwell was given provisional custody of the children by their mother so Greenwell could enroll them in school, Fontenot said, adding the legal paperwork cost about $175.

Believing a similar arrangement could be made with the Romeros, Greenwell asked for $175, Fontenot said.

Fontenot acknowledged Greenwell probably had no authority to transfer custody of the children to another party, but added she would not have understood the legalities.

"We're dealing with unsophisticated people," he said. "Their idea of paperwork may or may not be something that could be done."

The Romeros number is not listed and their attorney, Kelly Tate, has not returned a call for comment.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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