SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal judge sentenced an attorney to five months in prison and fined her $70,000 for her part in a “baby-selling ring,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Theresa Erickson, 43, of suburban Poway, must serve 9 months of home confinement after she does her time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement announcing her sentence.
The statement called it “a baby-selling ring that deceived prospective parents and the Superior Court of California.”
“In her August 2011 guilty plea, Erickson, an internationally renowned California attorney specializing in reproductive law, admitted that she and her conspirators used numerous GCs [gestational carriers] to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for over $100,000 each,” prosecutors said in the statement.
“California law forbids the sale of parental rights to babies and children,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The law does, however, permit surrogacy arrangements, but only if the Gestational Carrier (‘GCs’) and the Intended Parents (‘IPs’) enter into an agreement prior to an embryonic transfer. If the GC and IPs do not reach an agreement before the GC receives the embryonic transfer, the GC can only transfer parental rights in the unborn child through a formal adoption procedure. California law permits participants to profit from surrogacies, but not adoptions.”
Prosecutors said in the statement that Erickson and her co-defendants sent 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 in which the original IPs had backed out. The conspirators also drafted fraudulent ‘assumption agreements’ for the prospective parents to sign, which reinforced the lie that original IPs existed but had simply backed out.
“According to court records, Erickson admitted to lying to the California Superior Court by fraudulently representing in court documents that these post-pregnancy agreements between the GC and IPs were legitimate surrogacies, which allowed Erickson and her co-conspirators to make over $400,000 in profit from the sale of
Also on Friday, co-conspirator Carla Chambers, 51, of Las Vegas, was sentence to five months in prison, seven months of home confinement, or ordered to pay $180,020 in restitution.
In December, co-conspirator Hilary Neiman, 32, of Chevy Chase, Md., an attorney specializing in reproductive law, was sentenced to five months in prison, seven months of home confinement, ordered to forfeit $133,000 and fined $20,000.