Duo falsified surrogacy documents in California courts to sell babies for more than $100,000 each
by Danielle E. Gaines
A Rockville-based adoption attorney has pleaded guilty to participating in an international baby-selling ring out of California.
Hilary M. Neiman, who founded and runs The National Adoption and Surrogacy Center at 30 Courthouse Square in Rockville, joined the operation in 2008, according to federal court filings.
She pleaded guilty July 28 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California.
Neiman, 32, lives in Chevy Chase. She did not return a message left on her cell phone. Her attorney, Gregory Vega, said he could not comment on the case until after the sentencing hearing.
According to court documents, the ring was run by world-renowned reproductive law attorney Theresa Erickson, who practices from Poway, Calif., and led the group from 2005 to March 2011.
Erickson and Neiman would create an inventory of unborn babies by finding women who would travel to Ukraine to have embryos from unknown donors implanted, according to the FBI. If the pregnancy lasted until the second trimester, the attorneys would offer the babies to prospective parents by falsely representing that the unborn babies were the result of legitimate surrogacy arrangements, but that the intended parents had backed out.
Under California law, pregnant women and intended parents must have an agreement prior to an embryonic transfer for the arrangement to be a valid surrogacy. In a surrogacy, the woman who carries the pregnancy can receive compensation from intended parents beyond medical costs and other pregnancy expenses. In an adoption, a woman cannot make money for carrying a child, according to court records.
Neiman and Erickson created false surrogacy agreements in California Superior Court and charged intended parents more than $100,000 for each baby. They paid the women who birthed the children between $38,000 and $45,000 and pocketed the rest, according to the FBI.
The documents do not show how many women and babies were involved or how much money was made. Assistant United States Attorney Jason A. Forge, who is prosecuting the case, could not be reached Tuesday.
Erickson also filed fraudulent forms to a California insurance program that subsidized the hospital costs for delivery.
Both women will be sentenced in federal court Oct. 14. They face a maximum sentence of five years in custody and a $250,000 fine.