Surrogacy Scam

May 1, 2009 12:56:29 AM PDT
The owner of a Valley-based surrogacy firm is being tracked down by couples around the country and the world ... Who say their money ... and their hopes for a family ... were stolen.The company promised to cover all expenses for egg donors and for surrogates ... to deliver the dream of a baby for prospective parents.

But that dream turned into a nightmare for dozens of couples and a Clovis woman, caught in the middle.

Fresno State student Amanda Cram should have her financial future ahead of her ... but at the age of 23 it's nearly ruined.

She has a pile of medical bills and collections notices for over 40-thousand dollars ... after suffering a complication from egg donation.

Her willingness to help a couple who were desperate to have a baby ... left her paying a very high price.

A little over a year ago ... Amanda saw the website for SurroGenesis USA, a Modesto-based surrogacy firm that served as a "broker" between egg donors, surrogates and prospective parents.

She fit the company's profile as the perfect egg donor...young, intelligent and healthy. Amanda signed a contract with SurroGenesis which agreed to "completely" cover the cost of complications" from the procedure.

The first time she donated ... it was so successful ... her eggs ended up becoming triplets for a new mom.

Amanda was paid 6-thousand dollars and never even had to look at a medical bill. A few months later, Amanda says SurroGenesis called her to donate again.

But the second time ... she developed a condition called hyper stimulation in which the ovaries become inflamed ... forcing Amanda to stay in the hospital for six weeks.

The medical bills that should have been paid by SurroGenesis ... started coming to her.

Action News went to Modesto to try to track down SurroGenesis and its former owner ... Tonya Collins.

One of the office locations for the company, at a Modesto retail complex, is now vacant. And no one answered at Collins' home in this quiet Modesto neighborhood ... inside ... moving boxes are stacked up in the kitchen.

Neighbors were stunned to see Collins, her husband and their five children ... move out so suddenly, especially since it seemed they had a thriving business.

Neighbors say at one point, Collins moved her surrogacy business into her own home ... converting a garage into an office ... all that's left of that office is an empty space, and this window, blocked by a moving box. They also say Tonya Collins may have started her business based on her own experience as a surrogate. They say when Collins and her family moved into this house, she was pregnant with another couple's child.

Amanda says SurroGenesis even promoted Collins' own surrogacy to boost the business, but a few years later, Collins and her family left California.

Southern California Attorney Ted Penny is trying to track down Tonya Collins and the money he says she stole from dozens of his clients ... nearly 3 million dollars.

Penny has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of couples who lost their life savings ... and are now broke ... and heart-broken.

Penny believes Collins is living in Texas ... in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He's going after her for breach of contract, unfair business practices and fraud.

Penny says Collins assured her clients ... their money would be held in a separate trust firm ... called Michael Charles Independent Financial Holdings Group. But it turned out ... Michael Charles wasn't independent of SurroGenesis at all ... and in fact ... Tonya Collins had set up the fund.

We contacted Collins' attorney, Kevin Clancy in Dallas ... who says he's representing her only in a criminal capacity and not for the civil case ... but he had no comment.

While Ted Penny pursues the class action lawsuit ... he cautions people to thoroughly check out any business deal in which thousands of dollars are at stake.

Amanda Cram also wants justice.

Although she likely won't ever get her medical bills paid ... she hopes Collins doesn't profit from other people's pain.

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