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Theresa Erickson, previous owner of Conceptual Options, pleads Guilty in Baby Selling Ring
It is always unfortunate when innocent victims are taken advantage of, and even more so, when the people taking advantage of them could just as easily be helping them. Such is the case of Theresa Erickson, previous owner of Conceptual Options and an attorney specializing in reproductive law, who has pleaded guilty to baby selling in a ring also involving attorney Hilary Neiman of Maryland. We are so saddened by the actions of those in power who have taken advantage of Intended Parents, surrogates and the unfortunate babies themselves. Ms. Erickson and her co-conspirators sold babies of Surrogates to Intended Parents for sums of at least $100,000, after sending the surrogates overseas to be impregnated with donor eggs and donor sperm. It is sad to see what was assumed to be a prestigious agency owner fall so hard, and we hope this leads to greater regulation and oversight of Surrogacy Agencies in general. Our sympathies lie with the Intended Parents and Surrogates who were taken advantage of not only emotionally by preying on their emotions and desire for a baby at any cost, but also were defrauded financially, as we all know a successful surrogacy with a reputable agency can be had for $65,000-$95,000, and not at the exorbitant sums that Ms. Erickson and Hilary Neiman were charging while breaking the law. We are sure there will be more to come from this sad story, and we hope that Intended Parents are not turned off from Surrogacy as a whole, as there are still reputable Agencies such as Simple Surrogacy to help Intended Parents and Surrogates at reasonable, legal costs.
Attorney admits guilt in baby-selling ring
An internationally known Poway attorney who specialized in reproductive law pleaded guilty Tuesday to a key role in what federal authorities said was a baby-selling ring.
Theresa Erickson, 43, admitted that she and her co-conspirators used women to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for over $100,000 each, according to the San Diego offices of the U.S. attorney.
Federal prosecutors said three women —- Erickson, along with Hilary Neiman, an attorney from Maryland, and Carla Chambers, a surrogate mother —- admitted guilt in the scheme. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Merriman said that Erickson agreed to pay restitution of $120,000 —- $10,000 each to 12 couples victimized in the scheme, which started as far back as 2005.
The parents in the scheme did receive children, however, they are considered victims and “we are certainly not taking steps” that would see the parents lose custody of the children, Merriman said.
Under the conspiracy, women would go to overseas clinics and have embryos implanted, becoming pregnant.
Once the pregnancy entered the second trimester, Erickson and co-conspirators would solicit prospective parents willing to pay the high fees to buy the parental rights for an unborn baby, the charges state.
The timing of when a deal is struck matters. Before conception, a woman can agree to become pregnant for profit, under California law. After conception, however, the woman cannot profit from being pregnant and supplying a child to prospective parents. The first instance is considered surrogacy, the second instance is adoption.
Under the baby-selling scheme, prospective parents were duped into believing that the pregnancies were the result of legitimate surrogacy agreements gone awry because the first set of intended parents backed out, federal prosecutors alleged. The replacement parents paid fees of more than $100,000 to take over what they believed were legitimate surrogacy agreements.
Prosecutors said the baby-selling scheme created “a steady flow of newborns with the promise that they (the pregnant women) would be paid between $38,000 to $45,000 for each successful pregnancy that resulted in a birth,” according to charges the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego filed against Erickson on Tuesday, the same day she pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Federal prosecutors say Erickson admitted that she faked surrogacy agreements to look like they were struck prior to conception of the baby, and then filed those false documents in court.
What’s more, the scheme enabled the pregnant women to get state insurance they were not otherwise eligible to receive, prosecutors said.
On a cached version of her website — which has since been removed —- Erickson was described as “one of the few attorneys in the United States who specializes exclusively in the area of Family Formation Law.”
The site stated that Erickson herself long ago became an egg donor for several couples seeking children.
Erickson is slated to be sentenced Oct. 28. She faces up to five years in custody.
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