Disbarred attorney takes money for surrogacy business; baby never delivered

Team 10 reporter attacked while asking questions

SAN DIEGO - A local con man who has been ripping off people for years – and even served time in jail – is back at it again, Team 10 has found. The man is a disbarred attorney, and tried to attack the Team 10 reporter asking questions about his alleged current scam.

Team 10 has done many stories on Steven Liss - who goes by several names, and opens up businesses under new names. He moves his office around, though he seems to prefer the beach area.

"There’s a woman in Idaho," said Investigative Reporter Mitch Blacher as he followed Liss on a San Diego sidewalk. "You took her $7,500, after promising her a baby – why don’t you give her money back?"

A woman who didn't want to give her last name, said Liss promised her a baby. Melissa told Team 10 she was desperate to adopt a baby after the birth of her stillborn son.

"It actually sounded like a great opportunity," Melissa from Idaho said. She added Liss took advantage of her when she was at an emotional vulnerable point. She said Liss took her money, but never was able to adopt a baby through his business.

Team 10 also talked to another woman with another complaint against Liss.

Andrea Zelones said she was contacted by Liss about an administrative assistant position at his business.

"I Googled him because I would Google anyone I would work for," Zelones said.

She found several past Team 10 stories on Liss, including when his attorney's license was revoked by the California Bar Association.

"I went oh my goodness," she said.

His license was revoked for cheating clients in many different cases, including divorce and adoptions.

Zelones said Liss told her he was successful in the surrogacy business, and in creating new families.
 
"He says he places hundreds  of ads a week, looking for surrogates and donors," Zelones said.

Because he is disbarred, it is illegal for Liss to advertise a family law practice, but that is what Team 10 found him doing. The ad led Team 10 to his most recent office in Pacific Beach. However, Liss would not answer any questions about Melissa's baby or his surrogacy business.

Instead, Liss used something to assault the reporter after a struggle over the camera used to record him.

"He preys on people who are willing to do anything," Melissa said. "When you hit that emotional spot in your life, tragedies happen like that, he preys on those emotions."

Liss tried to grap Blacher's phone when he realized the reporter was recording him. After a brief struggle, Liss let go of the phone and the reporter's hands, and started to cross Pacific Beach Drive headed east.

As Blacher followed him and continued to ask questions, Liss swung a bag filled with garbage at the reporter. The bag opened, and spilled litter on the road. Liss picked it all up, and then kept walking through someone's personal property to get to an alley to get away from Team 10.

Team 10 filed a police report.

Liss has been arrested, convicted, and disbarred. Team 10 wondered how he can keep scamming women, and took the question to the district attorney's office. A spokesperson said they were looking into the case. Team 10 will later report on what they find.

THE PROMISE OF A BABY

Steven Liss tried to convince Melissa from Idaho he could be trusted.  She had seen the stories 10News had done on the disbarred attorney but she was desperate for a child to replace her stillborn son. Liss was aware of her personal circumstances and would keep the pressure on this Idaho women for four years.

He eventually was able to get Melissa to send him $7500 to cover the fees for an adoption the disbarred attorney said he was handling. There would be no baby. It’s not the first time we have reported on how Liss has promised a baby to eager parents and not delivered.

You can see the initial e mail contacts by Liss in October, 2011 and a portion of the communications to Melissa until she paid him the last of the money.

Team10 was contacted last year by Melissa when she began to realize he had scammed her just as he has done others. Melissa told us that Liss would sign emails with other people's names to make it look like he had considerable staffing. She says she eventually figured it was just part of his effort to give his claims legitimacy. For example, Melissa says the February 26, 2013 e mail, was an example of Liss pretending to be one of his own staff.

Oct 10, 2011 12:44 PM, LISS

Melissa, Will you deposit $1500 tomorrow and we can target some BMs close to you. I think you recall babies take 9 months to cook. Thus, you can look to that datish to adopt a child. You have placed me in a very uncomfortable, unfair position at this time. You know I have a boutique practice, working with a small numbers of special adoptive parents at a time. I am moving offices and thus won't be able to provide you ad copy for 5-7 days. Please make this small deposit tomorrow. Thank you.

Feb 26, 2013 at 3:55 PM, LISS as his staff member

Thank you for your contact! You have no idea how crazy it is as all other APs have been chomping at the bit for weeks, begging, crying, pleading,and particularly today, Jess' deadline for you guys. Are you depositing the $3000 today, or just $1500 today, and $1500 Friday? Please do not miss our bank's close, 6pm, as this BM will be gone thereafter. Mr.Liss will be so sad, and somehow I will feel it is my fault, but I have tried so hard for you guys because Mr. Liss has wanted this so bad for you, I feel like I have known you guys forever. Please, on Friday, do not do this to me all day....Please go through the Birthmother letter and correct the grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It was such a heartfelt letter. Please make it to our bank very soon. I hate this drama. G-d Bless you.

Feb 26, 2013 at 3:30 PM, MELISSA

bank deposit will be in probably close to closing time so it might not show until morning and you guys have the only bm letter i have the original is she decides she'd rather come here we will make it work. i do have a few questions like what is the paper work process gonna be and how much money  will i have to have while there?

Feb 27, 2013 at 9:36 AM, LISS as his staff member

What Bank of A did you make the deposit, as the one in Sandpoint did not receive it, nor has any record of it. Do you have your receipt? I may be losing my job, as I already told everyone this was complete as of 10am yesterday! What B of A did you go to? There is no other B of A for 50 miles? Please let me know asap. Thank you!

March 1, 2013 at 3:10 PM, LISS

Please make sure the 500 from the 1500 promised 2 daus (sic) ago gets deposited today also do we can try to make this work. Please confirm. Thank you.

Mar 1, 2013 12:51 PM PST, LISS

I have requested Jessica's materials be sent back to us, and will then forward them to you next week. We were given until 3pm today to confirm a 2000 deposit. If it does not occur, she  will go with either 2 other
families, for each child as she needs help. We can try to match you with a baby due in July, if your student loan and tax refunds become available. We had hoped to keep the kids together. Additionally, we never received
insurance or your birthmother letter, needed to travel with Joseph. Did you make a deposit yesterday? Please respond by text and email. We hope it can work for you. Thank you.

March 1, 2013,   11:12 AM, MELISSA

the only pictures i have are two of joseph i need an ultrasound pic of baby due in june still. I am with carol as i type this but she really had planned on looking at a profile which still has yet to be provided. The deposit can and will happen today as long as you get me the things im asking for.

Mar 1, 2013 10:56 AM, LISS

Please make sure deposit happens today. We asked for Jessica's materials to be sent back, but she needs to know of your commitment. It is urgent at this time. You should already have her photos. Please text and email. Thank you.

March 1, 2013, MELISSA

the deposit for 1500 has been made as promised

April 22, 2013  LISS

We are assuming, this is a no go. There are no more miracles here. You complain of not calling, but we call, leave messages, no word. We had suggested a large lump sum, to handle future catastrophes in your life, which seem to occur, and other unforeseen

April 25, 2013, LISS as his staff member

I am sorry if you provided this info but need to make sure new house is child proofed for mobil kids, and if all up to snuff, for the next fourteen days. We have tried to craft parameters for all to come together. One friend may have to stay a few weeks, but can work, help. Please make sure $1500 is deposited by Friday am as early as possible so things can move forward. You informed us of the ICPC issues, if any, can be handled by you on your end. We are so excited. Thank you so

April 27, 2013, MELISSA

health coverage for joseph can start immediately upon his arrival as I stated we have already added him but need his social security number to complete the addition on to our policy. the names we have decided
on is first for joseph his name will be xxxxxxxxxxxx ( we are trying to keep his first name still incorporated into his full name) and for the baby girl we have chosen  xxxxxxxxxx

April 27, 2013, LISS as his staff member

Thank you so very much. Did you deposit the $1500 yet? I am so >sorry for all this back/forth uncertainties. Also, please forward your Dear >BM letter, your pics, and home study by Monday, at your  convenience. Please
confirm all. Thank you.

Friday, May 3, 2013,   LISS

How are you doing? Do you work with an individual mental health professional or support groups? We know these uncertainties, infertility, is very stressful. The additional trials and tribulations of parenting mix into it. I know nothing new. We just care so immensely for you. Please let us know when deposit will occur, and your docs will arrive. Thank you so much.

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