SAN DIEGO (CN) – An attorney from the wealthy suburb of Poway on Tuesday “admitted to being part of a baby-selling ring that deceived the Superior Court of California and prospective parents for unborn babies,” federal prosecutors said.
Theresa Erickson, 43, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Prosecutors described Erickson as “an internationally renowned California attorney specializing in reproductive law.” They said she “fraudulently submitted false declarations and pleadings to the California Superior Court in San Diego, in order to obtain pre-birth judgments establishing parental rights for intended parents.”
California law prohibits sale of parental rights to babies and children, but permits surrogacy deals if the intended natural mother, or gestational carrier, and the intended parents “enter into an agreement prior to an embryonic transfer,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
If they do not make the agreement before the embryonic transfer, the natural mother cannot transfer parental rights, except through standard adoption procedures.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its statement: “In her guilty plea, Erickson admitted that she and her conspirators used GCs [gestational carriers] to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for over $100,000 each. They accomplished this by paying women to become implanted with embryos in overseas clinics. If the women (now GCs) sustained their pregnancies into the second trimester, the conspirators offered the babies to prospective parents by falsely representing that the unborn babies were the result of legitimate surrogacy arrangements, but that the original IPs [intended parents] had backed out.
“In pleading guilty, Erickson also admitted that she prepared and filed with the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, declarations and pleadings that falsely represented that the unborn babies were the products of legitimate surrogacy arrangements, that is, ones that involved agreements between the IPs and the GCs prior to embryonic transfer. With these fraudulently obtained pre-birth orders, the IPs’ names would be placed on the babies’ birth certificates and the conspirators would be able to profit from their sale of parental rights. Erickson also admitted that she caused applications containing materially false representations to be submitted to the State of California’s Access for Infants and Mothers program to subsidize the medical expenses for delivering the babies.”
Erickson is the third person to plead guilty to the conspiracy.
Hilary Neiman, a 32-year-old attorney from Chevy Chase, Md., pleaded guilty on July 28 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Carla Chambers, 51, of Las Vegas, Nev., pleaded guilty on Aug. 3 to conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
Each charge is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Neiman will be sentenced on Oct. 14. Erickson and Chambers will be sentenced on Oct. 28. The federal judge may accept or reject their guilty please before or during the sentencing hearing.