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Internet sperm agency founder convicted of fraud

14 April 2008
Appeared in BioNews 453

John Gonzalez, the founding director of a controversial UK-based online company - '', which delivered fresh sperm to women for DIY-insemination - was sentenced last week at the Wood Green Crown Court in London to sixteen months incarceration for five counts of fraudulent activities. Judge Juliet May QC said that he had 'siphoned off thousands of pounds' in a 'sustained course of fraudulent conduct' and banned him from being a company director for five years.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) led the investigation, which uncovered shocking business practices - including one client receiving sperm in a dirty coffee canister, while two former employees describe how women were given sperm from donors with completely different characteristics than requested. Gonzalez was successfully prosecuted for lying to officials, forging documents and falsifying debts to evade relinquishing assets to creditors while illegally embezzling those funds to support an opulent lifestyle. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulent trading, one count of financial misconduct, one count of forgery and one count of perjury.

Gonzalez launched the online business June 2002 amidst stormy criticism, claiming the website was the world's first to courier fresh sperm and insemination equipment directly to lesbian, single and medically infertile couples who paid to register on the site, charging up to £7,000 for delivery. Some critics viewed the service as a threat to the family unit and dubbed the site 'morals not included'.

Medical practitioners and government authorities warned that this kind of service poises a potential threat to women's and the resulting child's health because the fresh sperm was not screened for any diseases. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology 1990 Act requires sperm donations to be quarantined for up to 180 days for testing. Some infections such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) may take up to three months to incubate, meaning that an HIV test at the time of the donation may not detect the virus even though the donor might be carrying it.

The service also presented potential legal complications. Under UK law, donors whose sperm is obtained through HFEA licensed clinics are not the legal parents of any resulting offspring. However, the legal position on the parentage of children born via sperm donated outside of HFEA license is unclear.

Gonzalez maintains that boasted 20 pregnancies and more than 5,000 customers. In December 2004, Gonzalez illegally liquidated the company with debt totalling over £220,000 and then continued to trade under a slightly different name. Meanwhile, he embezzled £185,000 from these company accounts.

'Internet sperm' founder jailed
BBC News Online |  8 April 2008
Sperm to lesbians website founder jailed
The Daily Telegraph |  14 April 2008
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