An internationally renowned attorney from Poway specializing in reproductive law pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to being part of a baby-selling ring that deceived the San Diego Superior Court and prospective parents for unborn babies.
According to court records, Theresa Erickson submitted false declarations and pleadings in Superior Court in order to obtain pre-birth judgments establishing parental rights for Intended Parents, or IPs.
California law prohibits the sale of parental rights to babies and children but permits surrogacy arrangements if the women expecting to carry the babies, called Gestational Carriers, and the Intended Parents enter into an agreement prior to an embryonic transfer, authorities said.
If the GC and IPs do not reach an agreement before the GC receives the embryotic transfer, the GC cannot transfer parental rights except through a formal adoption procedure.
Erickson pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In her guilty plea, Erickson admitted that she and her co-conspirators used GCs to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for more than $100,000 each.
They accomplish that by paying women to become implanted with embryos in overseas clinics, authorities said.
For example, three surrogates in Texas, Nevada and Missouri would be sent to a clinic in Ukraine where a fertilized egg would be implanted. Then, they would come back to the United State to give birth. The surrogates cooperated with the investigation and were not charged.
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 had backed out.
"Specifically that the embryos had been implanted after an agreement was reached between the gestational carrier and the intended parent, but that was not the case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Merriman.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Jason Forge told 10News that least 12 different sets of intended parents were affected by the ring. Forge said the price for the babies ranged from $100,000 to $150,000.
Erickson is the third member of the conspiracy to plead guilty.
Hilary Neiman, a 32-year-old Maryland attorney specializing in reproductive law, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 14.
Carla Chambers, 51, of Las Vegas, is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 28, the same day as Erickson.
Erickson could face up to five years in prison when she is sentenced. She could also be fined $250,000. She has agreed to pay each set of parents $10,000 in restitution.
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