10 Aug 2011

The Author

Author of the award-winning book Finding Fernanda. Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Redux Pictures photographer. Read more here.

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A Closer Look at Theresa Erickson’s San Diego “Baby-Selling Ring”

A “baby-selling ring” has been busted in Southern California. Here’s an excerpt from the FBI’s announcement yesterday:

“…Theresa Erickson entered a guilty plea before United States Magistrate Judge William McCurine, Jr., in which she admitted to being part of a baby-selling ring that deceived the Superior Court of California and prospective parents for unborn babies. According to court records, Erickson (an internationally renowned California attorney specializing in reproductive law) fraudulently submitted false declarations and pleadings to the California Superior Court in San Diego, in order to obtain pre-birth judgments establishing parental rights for Intended Parents (“IPs”)…

In her guilty plea, Erickson admitted that she and her conspirators used GCs to create an inventory of unborn babies that they would sell for over $100,000 each. They accomplished this by paying women to become implanted with embryos in overseas clinics. 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. ”

The full press release is here. The L.A. Times also has a write up on their blog. An excerpt:

“…According to court documents, Erickson hired women in San Diego to go to Ukraine to be implanted with embryos created from the sperm and eggs of donors.

Once a woman was in the second trimester of pregnancy,  she would return to San Diego and Erickson would “shop” the babies by falsely telling couples that a couple who had intended to adopt the baby had  backed out of the deal. The new couple would then be charged between $100,000 and $150,000,  according to prosecutors.

“These were people who desperately wanted babies,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Jason A. Forge.

Court documents mention a dozen unnamed couples who received babies in this manner from Erickson and the two co-defendants. Women who agreed to carry the embryos to term were paid between $38,000 and $40,000, Forge said.”

Cananda’s CBC also picked up the story.

Erickson’s website, EricksonLaw.net, has gone dark, but an Archive.org crawl shows she advertised “Confidentiality, Honesty & Integrity You Can Trust.” She’s also an active blogger, whose posts on surrogacy, egg donation, and embryo donation date back to 2006.

Her Facebook page is still mostly public. Erickson likes listening to Frank Sinatra, Rob Zombie, and Eminem. She watches Fox News, Dexter, and The Daily Show, among others. Under her “activities and interests,” a wide variety of items are listed, many related somehow to surrogacy or reproductive technology. Here she is:

One public conversation on Facebook caught my attention:

 Meanwhile, the other business that Erickson worked with, Conceptual Options of San Diego, seem to have quietly removed her name from their website. They forgot to take her off their Facebook page, though, which still shows her photo with the caption “Founder.”  Another archive.org crawl of the site from 2009– which was at a different URL, http://surrogacy-eggdonation.com– says the following:

“Conceptual Options is also one of the only surrogacy and egg donation agencies on the West Coast that is licensed by the State of New York Department of Health and authorized to operate within New York State as a Donor Agency.  Most importantly, we are registered with the FDA, responsible for compliance with regulations set forth within the industry…We have a full service surrogacy and egg donation center that includes an attorney and a full service staff.”

That link for “attorney” routes over to Erickson’s own now-defunct website. Elsewhere on the site, Erickson is called the “CEO & Founder on our International Program.” She’s described as being “articulate with the media” and “continually sought for expert opinions” about surrogacy.  The site says her and another Conceptual Options staffer have been features in “articles and have appeared in FOX News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Today Show NBC, San Diego NBC News, San Diego KUSI Local News, Marie Claire and Self, among other magazines and newspapers.”

Also mentioned on the 2009 website:

“Conceptual Options and the Law Offices of Theresa M. Erickson have the experience and reputation to fully assist and oversee a successful egg donation and/or surrogacy arrangement minimizing risks in your most precious investment.  Conceptual Options has been making families a reality since 1999, and have excellent references available upon request.”

On their staff page, Theresa Erickson is listed first. Under her, there are eight other staff members: Tracy Armato (“Program Director for Conceptual Options &  Surrogate Program Admissions Coordinator”), Melinda Johnson (“Senior Case Manager for Conceptual Options”), Carlos Johnson (“Spanish Case Manager for Conceptual Options”), Loren Glaser (“Case Coordinator and Cycle Coordinator”), Carol Carrasco (“Egg Donor Admissions Coordinator”), George Sims (“Paralegal and Director of Legal Operations for Erickson law“), and Jennifer Sims (“Trust and Billing Manager for Erickson Law“).

Today, the current website for Conceptual Options shows Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish, and German case managers.

But here’s a question that remains in my mind: If Theresa Erickson’s case revolved around using Ukrainian women to carry babies she later sold to Americans, why did Conceptual Options have a “Spanish Case Manager” first?

Which Spanish-speaking country were they working with?

In Finding Fernanda, I briefly discuss how international surrogacy took hold in Guatemala, as the adoption industry was winding down in late 2007. An excerpt from the book’s epilogue, where I provide an update on Carla Girón, a Guatemalan adoption facilitator who was involved in part of Fernanda’s adoption proceedings. Miriam Monterrosa also worked in Guatemalan adoptions.

“Carla Girón married Jim Harding, the former director of the Christian adoption agency World Partners Adoption, Inc, in 2008 and now lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She now goes by Carla Harding. In 2009, the couple began a new business together called Surrogacy Partners, which calls itself a “pioneer in international surrogacy.” The business matches infertile American couples with Guatemalan women willing to bear a child for them, for a fee. Carla’s stepmother, Miriam Elena Monterrosa, serves as the company’s lawyer in Guatemala.”

You can check them out here:

Special thanks to San Diego-based border reporter Ruxandra Guidi over at the KPBS Fronteras Desk for telling me about this case! Missed it when the news broke yesterday.

1 Comment
1 Comments
  1. Wow, Erin – you are a researching CHAMP! Thanks for fleshing all this out so well. Best source of “more information” I’ve found this evening. Looking forward to your book’s release! The Guatemala angle is especially pertinent in our family.

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