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First of three women in US 'baby-selling' ring sentenced

5 December 2011
Appeared in BioNews 636

A former lawyer convicted of wire fraud and other charges after her involvement in a 'baby-selling' ring has been sentenced to five months imprisonment by a Californian court.

Hilary Neiman, along with Theresa Erickson and Carla Chambers, who are due to be sentenced in January, recruited American women to act as surrogates who would then conceive through IVF using donated gametes.

The offenders would then 'shop' the babies by falsely telling prospective adoptive parents that those who had intended to adopt the babies had backed out of the scheme. When a new couple had been found to adopt a future child, they were asked to pay over $100,000 in fees, while the surrogates were paid between $38,000 and $45,000.

Erickson filed court documents falsely asserting that a surrogacy agreement had been drawn up between the surrogate and intending parents before the surrogate became pregnant, as required under US law designed to prevent the 'selling' of babies. The scheme allowed the parties to get around stringent US adoption laws by enabling the intending parents to be registered on the child's birth certificate.

Neiman had pleaded guilty in the San Diego federal court last April to wire fraud and other charges. In passing sentence, US District Judge Anthony Battaglia told Neiman, 'You preyed upon the weak. You preyed upon the desperate'.

She was also ordered to seven months of home confinement following her period in custody and to hand over $133,000 in profits prosecutors allege she made from the fraud, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

'I knew better than this', Neiman said. 'I didn’t listen to myself. And I'm sorry'.

Neiman's lawyer, Joseph McMullen, said although the scheme had been operating since 2005, Neiman had only been involved for three years.

Ex-attorney sentenced in San Diego 'baby-selling' case
LA Times |  2 December 2011
Lawyer jailed for international 'baby-selling ring' which charged American couples more than $100,000 for a child
Mail Online |  3 December 2011
5 March 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A respected adoption lawyer has been sentenced to prison for her role in an international baby-selling operation. Theresa Erickson, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August 2011, was sentenced by a San Diego court to five months in prison followed by nine months in home confinement and ordered to pay a $70,000 fine....
12 September 2011 - by Natalie Gamble 
Theresa Erickson, a high profile Californian attorney specialising in assisted reproduction law (self-styled online and in the media as 'the surrogacy lawyer') pleaded guilty last month to charges relating to her involvement in a baby selling scam. The case has sent shock waves through the US assisted reproduction law community, which is reeling at the disgrace of one of its best known members...
15 August 2011 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A US fertility lawyer has pleaded guilty to participating in what prosecutors have called a 'baby-selling ring'...
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