A California woman accused of running a surrogacy scam pleaded guilty to the charges but now has been ordered to pay more than $1.7 million to those whom the court said that she defrauded. The 37-year-old was serving five years in prison for the alleged fraud before the restitution order was handed down. Court documents claimed that from 2006 to 2009, the woman enacted a scheme to defraud parenting hopefuls through her own company and through an independent financial group.
Those reportedly defrauded lived as far away as Germany. Some of the prospective parents either spent their life savings or went heavily into debt to pay what they were told that they needed to pay in order to have children through a surrogate. The woman at the center of the case was said to have used business accounts for purchases such as cars, homes, clothing, vacations for herself and others, and jewelry without her clients' consent or knowledge. The client funds should have been held in escrow accounts, but were instead used to finance her lifestyle, according to court documents.
The woman pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and was sentenced to five years behind bars. A judge in the case added to that penalty with an order for her to repay $1,760,090 to those who claimed to be defrauded.
Charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering can bring lengthy prison sentences as well as hefty fines and restitution orders. A California attorney experienced in defending white collar crime cases may be able to help those accused of embezzlement, bribery or bank fraud. Such assistance may come in the form of negotiating a plea bargain in exchange for the court lessening charges and penalties.
Source: The Modesto Bee, "Woman ordered to pay $1.7 million to victims of Modesto-based surrogacy scam", September 10, 2013