(SAN DIEGO) — A prominent San Diego, Calif., reproductive rights attorney was sentenced to prison Friday for her role in an international baby-selling scheme that fraudulently placed a dozen babies in homes.
Theresa Erickson, 43, was sentenced to five months in prison, followed by nine more to be spent in home confinement. She was also fined $70,000. Her two partners in the scheme, Hilary Neiman, 32, a Maryland attorney, and Carla Chambers, 51, of Las Vegas, were given one year sentences. The women will spend five months in prison and the remainder in home confinement. Neiman was sentenced in December.
Erickson, who has written a book on surrogacy, was able to handle the ruse thanks to her high-profile work and the help of her two accomplices.
Chambers and Neiman were tasked with recruiting women to act as surrogates. The surrogates would travel to Ukraine, where they were implanted with donated sperm and eggs.
American doctors are required to check for documentation of a surrogacy agreement before implanting any embryos. The standards are lax in Ukraine, so Erickson sent her recruits there to complete the process.
Once the women hit the second trimester of pregnancy, Erickson would put the babies up for adoption under the false pretense that the original surrogate parents had backed out of the agreement.
She even filed fraudulent paperwork in court to back up her story.
Couples were charged between $100,000 and $150,000 for each baby. Surrogates who completed the pregnancy were paid between $38,000 and $40,000.
“This case serves as a reminder to people who are desperate to have a child that you must be cautious,” FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth told ABC News in August of last year when Erickson pleaded guilty.
The FBI became involved after it received complaints from gestational carriers, Foxworth said.
Erickson’s baby-selling ring placed a dozen babies in homes. The babies will remain with those families.
In total, Erickson profited $70,000. It is unclear how much Chambers and Neiman received.
Erickson has appeared on national television and wrote a book called “Assisted Reproduction: The Complete Guide to Having a Baby with the Help of a Third Party.”
According to her web site, she was drawn to family formation law because of her own experience.
“She initially discovered this area of family planning by choosing to become an egg donor for several couples who desperately wanted a child,” her biography said. It also mentioned her sister’s struggles with infertility.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Pamela Brown, CNN
Sara Zendehnam, CNN
Aaron Smith, CNN
Kathryn Vasel, CNN