On Monday 13 May 2013, a US woman who defrauded intended parents, surrogates and financial institutions of $2.4 million, was sentenced to 5 years and 3 months in prison.
Tonya Collins, 37, of Modesto, California, established a surrogacy agency, SurroGenesis, which she used as a front to carry out a scheme to defraud prospective parents between November 2006 and March 2009, directing them to pay their funds into an independent personal property escrow company. During investigations by the FBI, it emerged that, in fact, Ms Collins owned the escrow company in question and had used the money deposited by intended parents to fund her lavish lifestyle. She is reported to have used the funds to purchase expensive cars, homes, jewellery, clothing and vacations for herself and others.
US Attorney Wagner said “Tonya Collins orchestrated a cruel fraud, the effects of which are still being felt by the victims. She not only stole victim’s funds from their escrow accounts, but in many cases caused other injuries to victims, permanently foreclosing certain victims’ ability to proceed with a surrogate pregnancy for which they had planned for many years.”
In addition to her prison sentence, Ms Collins has also been ordered to pay restitution to her victims. She will begin her jail term on 27 June 2013, whilst a hearing to determine restitution amounts due to each victim has been scheduled for 29 July 2013.
This case illustrates the palpable problems and risks associated with international surrogacy and unregulated surrogacy agencies. Whilst many intended parents have a positive surrogacy experience and achieve their goal of a much-wanted child, some (as in this case) are not so lucky.
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