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Woman who ran surrogate parenting firm pleads guilty in fraud case

February 19, 2013 |  9:38 pm

A former Modesto woman who ran a surrogate parenting agency pleaded guilty Tuesday to four felony counts of wire fraud in a $2-million scheme carried out through her agency and another business she owned, federal authorities said.

Tonya Collins, 37, carried out a scheme to defraud prospective parents, surrogates and financial institutions while she owned Surrogenesis and the Michael Charles Financial Holding Group, according to the US. attorney's office in Fresno.

Surrogenesis was a surrogate and egg-donation agency that marketed itself as helping people have children through third-party assisted reproduction, federal prosecutors said. 

According to a plea agreement, Collins used the accounts from her two businesses to buy personal items such as automobiles, homes and jewelry and to finance vacations. Prosecutors said the unauthorized spending took place without clients' knowledge or consent.

"Collins cruelly took advantage of clients who sought nothing more than to bring children into the world," U.S. Atty. Benjamin B. Wagner said in a statement. "Her greed left a trail of devastation."

Collins is scheduled to be sentenced May 13. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.

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— Robert J. Lopez

twitter.com/LAJourno

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