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.
'The surrogacy laws were enacted to protect both unborn babies and parents seeking children. Out of sheer greed, Erickson preyed upon people's most basic need: to raise a child', said US Attorney Laura Duffy.
Erickson sent women to the Ukraine, where legal regulations are more lax regarding embryo transfer in comparison to the US. Once the women began their second trimester, the babies were sold to prospective parents unaware of the scheme, having been informed that the babies had become available due to another family backing out of the surrogacy arrangements when another family had never been in place.
Erickson convinced couples to pay up to $150,000 for each baby, with such agreements established with at least 12 couples, earning her approximately $70,000.
Erickson also admitted to filing fraudulent documents with the San Diego County Family Court so that these adoptions appeared to the court to be surrogacy arrangements. She pleaded guilty to filing false applications for the surrogates to California's state insurance program to subsidise the medical costs of the deliveries of the babies.
The scheme also broke laws stating that an agreement between surrogates and commissioning parents is required before an embryo is implanted, prosecutors explained.
'This case serves as a reminder to people who are desperate to have a child that you must be cautious', said Darrell Foxworth for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Carla Chambers, who pleaded guilty to receiving money from illegal enterprise, was also sentenced to five months in prison and seven months in home confinement for her role. The third woman involved in the scheme, Hilary Neiman, was sentenced to five months imprisonment and seven months home confinement late last year for her involvement.