A case that has been going on since 2009 has recently been moving forward. 37 year old California resident, Tonya Collins has officially pled guilty to 4 counts of wiring fraud, resulting in the embezzlement of $2 million dollars from clients of her surrogacy agency, SurroGenesis. She managed to elude the law for nearly 3 years before being arrested in April of 2012. She was then charged with7 counts of wire fraud, 4 counts of wire fraud, 9 counts of bank fraud, and 10 counts of money laundering. The two companies that are at the center of this scandal are SurroGenesis and the Michael Charles Independent Financial Holdings Group.
SurroGenesis was a surrogacy clinic and an egg donation agency. The aim of the agency was to help people who could not have children of their own to become parents through a surrogate arrangement.
The Michael Charles Independent Financial Holdings Group was believed to be an independent personal property escrow company. Clients of SurroGenesis were referred to the Holdings Group by Collins and were led to believe that the money that they paid would be held by the Financial Holdings Group and that the funds would be used to pay for fees associated with the surrogacy process (i.e. compensation, medical fees, etc.). What they did not know was that the Financial Holdings Group was merely a front and that Collins was the owner and operator.
The prosecution says that Collins invented fake employee identities in an effort to underscore the image that the Financial Holdings Group was an independent, fully staffed company. Between the years of 2006 and 2009, it is purported that Collins embezzled $2 million from her clients – essentially using the two business accounts as though they were her own private bank accounts. It is said that Collins used that money to pay for things such as a new home, cars, jewelry, and vacations. Meanwhile the surrogate mothers were not being compensated for their services and their surrogacy-related fees were not covered.
Victims of Collins’s actions (both the surrogates and the intended parents) feel as though they were preyed upon by Collins- emotionally and financially. Surely the past nearly 4 years since the crimes took place have been ones of turmoil the many families that have been affected. Perhaps this new turn of events will get them closer to finding some form of closure.
Collins has officially pled guilty to 4 of the 30 charges. If she is convicted, she will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
She returns to court for sentencing on May 13th.