Woman sentenced to 5 years jail for cruel surrogacy fraud

Xavier Symons
18 May 2013
Reproduced with Permission

A Californian women has been sentenced to 5 years imprisonment after she misappropriated US$2.5 million from a surrogacy company. Tonya Ann Collins, 37, set up the company Surrogenesis in 2005, along with the escrow company Michael Charles Independent Financial Holding Group.

From then until 2010, Collins used money from the companies for various unauthorized expenses - automobiles, homes, jewellery, clothing, and vacations for herself and others. Over 50 surrogate mothers were defrauded of their payments, in addition to countless clients who lost tens of thousands of dollars. On top of her jail sentence Collins has been ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

Collins was able to avoid detection by pretending Michael Charles was an independent, impartial party in the financial transactions to pay for surrogacy procedures. Eventually, Surrogenesis and Michael Charles suffered substantial cash flow problems, and various surrogate mother fees and related surrogacy expenses were not paid by the companies as required.

"Tonya Collins orchestrated a cruel fraud, the effects of which are still being felt by the victims," US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said in a statement. "She not only stole victims' funds from their escrow accounts, but in many cases caused other injuries to victims, permanently foreclosing certain victims' ability to proceed with a surrogate pregnancy for which they had planned for many years."

"[I'm] devastated", said Beth Mardones of Chicago, one of the victims of the scam. "I thought this just couldn't be right because we had signed a contract. We did everything the right way," she said. "I just felt that all of our hopes of having our own biological child were shattered."