Surrogacy Attorney Sentenced in “Adoption Mill” Scandal

Dawn Davenport


Surrogacy Attorney Sentenced in "Adoption Mill" Scandal

A surrogacy attorney and her associates are sentenced in an “adoption mill” scandal.

California surrogacy attorney Theresa Erickson was sentenced to five months in prison, and nine additional months of house arrest for masterminding a surrogacy/adoption fraud.  She was also fined $70,000.  She had faced the possibility of five year in prison, so many think the sentence is a mere slap on the wrist. Her two partners in the scheme, Hilary Neiman, a Maryland reproductive law attorney, and Carla Chambers, a former surrogate, were given five months in prison and seven months  in home confinement.  Neiman was sentenced in December and is currently serving her time at a minimum-security prison in Kentucky.

The scheme, which federal authorities called “essentially an adoption mill”  that created “an inventory of unborn babies” for sale worked like this. Embryos were created in Ukraine from donor eggs and donor sperm. American doctors are required to check for documentation of a surrogacy agreement before transferring embryos to a surrogate. Proof of a legitimate surrogacy arrangement before transfer is not required in Ukraine.  Chambers and Neiman recruited women to act as surrogates.  The surrogates would travel to Ukraine for the embryo transfer.

In the second trimester of the surrogate’s pregnancy, Erickson would contact prospective parents and offer them the baby under the false pretense that the original surrogate parents had backed out of the agreement.  She then  filed fraudulent paperwork in court to back up her story. Couples were charged between $100,000 and $150,000 for each baby. Surrogates who completed the pregnancy were paid between $38,000 and $40,000. The surrogate mothers themselves were unaware of the fraud, and ultimately some of them helped the FBI uncover the scheme.

It seems to me the lowest of the low to prey on people desperate for a child. It is terrifying to think where the creation of children for “surrogacy” or adoption could lead.  All of us, including would-be parents, have to be vigilant. If it seems too easy, or too quick, or it has an off-smell, be wary.  We have resources to help you identify and avoid surrogacy, egg donation, and adoption fraud.  Mel, over at Stirrup Queen has a wonderful blog on this situation and how it has affected her and the whole online infertility community.


Image credit: Bete a Bon-Dieu

27/02/2012 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Surrogacy Attorney Sentenced in “Adoption Mill” Scandal

  1. Avatar Sherry says:

    Adopted ones, I so agree! As an infertile woman, I fully understand the pain in not being able to conceive. It just seems like that pain makes reasonable people abandon all sense of ethics. Take a part from here an a part from there, it doesn’t matter as long as I get my baby. All with no thought to what that child might feel. There is a reason this practice is outlawed in so many states.

  2. Avatar Sherry says:

    I dont get it. Sorry. So its illegal to create the baby without a contract? Why didn’t they just prey on the parents BEFORE they made the baby? The prices sound the same. If these were rich parents willing to pay that much for a baby with no genetic link and unscreened donors, why not just adopt? They would have a quick match with the money they have to ,spend. Even with a hard to match, high end adoption, you’re only looking at 50 k tops.

    “It’s hard to think of where the creation of children for surrogacy or adoption could lead”. Ummm, isn’t that what surrogacy is? ( aside from gestational where intended parents parts are used)

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Sherry, the vast majority of surrogacy arrangements now are gestational, rather than traditional. With gestational surrogacy, I haven’t seen the statistics, but I would assume that most utilize the gametes from at least one of the intended parents. Not sure that changes your statement, but thought I’d clarify. As to why not “prey” before the transfer, I’m not sure, but would assume that it would create a sense of urgency and certainty. (A baby in need of parents and no risk that the embryo would not implant or and less risk of miscarriage in the second trimester.)

  3. Of course creating a baby to sell is illegal – baby selling, creating babies to sell – both are human trafficking.

    I am so deeply saddened by how that entire industry completely dismissed all that has been learned in the adoption world about harm done to the child with secrecy and lies and anonymity, not to mention lack of current health history that so wanted child will face their entire life.

    Sorry Dawn – it hurts…

    Just sad that it never seems to end.

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