The news hit this week of a baby selling ring involving a San Diego lawyer (Theresa Erickson), a Maryland attorney (Hilary Neiman) and an “agency” run by Carla Chambers of Las Vegas, Nevada. They plead guilty to being part of what the U.S. Attorney’s Office describes as a baby-selling ring. Read more from FBI about the plea.
Theresa Erickson, a California attorney, plead guilty to wire fraud. She and her co-conspirators were taking women to the Ukraine to a fertility doctor who would transfer embryos to the uterus of each woman. The reason they were using a Ukraine clinic was because they didn’t have a medical clinic in the United States that would do a transfer without a signed surrogacy contract with intended parents in place. The embryos were supposedly created from sperm and egg donors; however, no one really knows where the eggs/sperm/embryos came from. The women were then returned to the United States during the second trimester where the group would then work on finding couples who wanted to pay for the baby. The couples who were solicited were told that the pregnant woman was the surrogate for another couple that fell through and that the pregnant woman needed to be rematched with a new couple. In waiting until the women were in the second trimester of the pregnancy they were able to “sell” the babies based on the sex of the baby and actual knowledge of whether the woman was pregnant with a single baby versus twins or more. According to prosecutors, the new couple would pay between $100,000 and $150,000 for the baby.
The couples that were paying these fees were desperate for a baby and were told by licensed attorneys, Theresa Erickson and Hilary Newman, that the process was legal and was considered “surrogacy”. This illegal activity came to light when one of the preganant women became suspicious and reached out to a separate attorney to ask for help. The woman was advised to contact the FBI and the investigation began.
Once the women were matched with a couple that wanted the baby, Theresa Erickson would file false documents with a California Superior Court to obtain parentage decisions. She would allege that the baby was the result of a surrogacy contract that was in existence prior to the pregnancy between the carrier and the intended parents. When in fact a contract did not exist prior to the pregnancy. It appears from the court filings that a dozen couples fell for this scheme.
Surratt Law Practice assisted the FBI in this case when they were contacted by one of the women who were sent to the Ukraine to be impregnated. We are saddened by this situation but gratefull that the FBI did such a wonderful job in pursuing this case and bringing justice. It is really imporant for prospective parents to investigage any professionals that they are thinking of working with either for adoption or assisted reproduction. The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) has released a press release, explaining just that. “AAARTA is a non profit organization of attorneys, judges and law professors throughout the U.S.and Canada who are bound by a strict code of ethics and have distinguished themselves in the fields of adoption and assisted reproduction.” Kimberly Surratt is a fellow with AAARTA.