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Lawyer gets five months in custody for adoption scheme

February 24, 2012 | 12:39 pm

Theresa Erickson

A onetime high-profile attorney in adoption circles was sentenced Friday to five months in federal custody and nine months in home confinement for her guilty plea in what prosecutors called an international "baby-selling" ring.

Theresa Erickson, whose law firm was in Poway, had pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a scheme that involved hiring surrogates to carry embryos to term and then arranging for the infants to be adopted. The "intended parents" often paid more than $100,000, according to the plea bargain signed by Erickson.

The judge also ordered Erickson to pay a $70,000 fine. Erickson could have faced a maximum five years in prison.

"Out of sheer greed Erickson preyed upon people's most basic need: to raise a child," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy. "We cannot and will now allow individuals like Erickson to profit by taking advantage of vulnerable people who have a sincere desire to lawfully adopt and parent children."

At the same hearing in the court of District Judge Anthony Battaglia, one of Erickson's co-defendants, Carla Chambers of Las Vegas, was sentenced to five months in custody and seven months in home confinement.

A third defendant, Baltimore attorney Hilary Neiman, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced in December to five months in custody and seven in home confinement. She is now at the federal prison camp for women in Lexington, Ky., a minimum-security facility.

The scheme violated laws requiring an agreement between surrogates and "intended parents" before an embryo is implanted, prosecutors said. Instead, Erickson created an "inventory" of babies that she could then "sell" to clients, prosecutors said.

Chambers had pleaded guilty to receiving money from an illegal enterprise. Her role was to find surrogates, according to her plea bargain.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Theresa Erickson was sentenced Friday to five months in federal custody and nine months in home confinement for her guilty plea in what prosecutors called an international baby-selling ring. Credit: Howard Lipin / Associated Press

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