Md. Surrogacy Lawyer in Baby-Sale Ring Disbarred, Awaits Sentencing in Federal Wire Fraud Conspiracy
Posted Oct 07, 2011 10:08 pm CDT
A Rockville, Md., lawyer who reportedly collaborated with a California attorney to flout adoption and surrogacy laws in a baby-selling scheme has been disbarred.
Hilary Neiman was disbarred by consent yesterday in Maryland, reports the Gazette.
She and a California lawyer, Theresa Erickson, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They await sentencing, now scheduled for December, in federal court in San Diego.
The group allegedly hired woman to act as surrogate mothers and paid them to fly to the Ukraine or other overseas locations to be emplanted with embryos from unknown donors, according to the Gazette and a Department of Justice press release announcing the charges.
Pregnant women were then presented to couples seeking babies as women involved in failed surrogacy contracts where the intended parents had backed out. The couples seeking babies were allowed to “assume” the surrogacy contract.
California law requires surrogacy contracts to predate pregnancies, so arrangements for babies born absent valid surrogacy contracts must be made in accord with adoption law, the DOJ says.
However, the defendants’ scheme allegedly involved falsified documents filed by Erickson in California state court, making it appear as though the couples who agreed to pay $100,000 to $150,000 for a baby during at least the second or third trimester of pregnancy had agreed to a surrogacy arrangement in advance.
California is one of the few states that allows couples who are not biologically related to a child to be listed as parents on a birth certificate, pursuant to a surrogacy contract, without going through adoption, reports a San Diego Union-Tribune article on the latest developments in the case.
The scheme unraveled, according to the Union-Tribune, when attorney Andrew Vorzimer of Los Angeles, who focuses his practice on surrogacy, was contacted by two surrogates who had become suspicious of Erickson. He went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“There needs to be a major overhaul in how these arrangements are handled,” he told the newspaper. “We need to have a better statutory framework in place to avoid these kinds of issues and scandals.”
It appears from a California State Bar listing that Erickson has voluntarily stopped practicing law. Both she and Neiman were prominent surrogacy practitioners.
ABAJournal.com: “Prominent Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Baby-Selling Ring”