NBC news, through their Chicago affiliate, ran its investigative report into SurroGenesis and Tonya Collins. Featured in the segment are Beth and Marcio Mardones who have been working tirelessly on behalf of all the victims to garner media attention for this heinous scandal in the hopes it will shame law enforcement into doing their jobs. Also appearing in this report is Ted Penny, the litigatoin attorney retained by the victims. You can watch the video of the segment here.
There are a couple of developments worth noting. First, the class action lawsuit will be filed tomorrow against SurroGenesis, Michael Charles, Tonya Collins and others. Among the likely causes of action will be a claim for RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations. While the arsenal available to civil litigators is often circumscribed, there is not a more potent weapon than a RICO claim which is also used by prosecutors in criminal actions. By way of background, RICO is a United States federal law that provides for criminal penalties as well as authorizing a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Even though its intended use was to prosecute the Mafia and others engaged in organized crime, its application has been extended well beyond its original purpose. Within the criminal context, those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” RICO also permits a private individual harmed by the actions of such an enterprise to file a civil suit; if successful, the individual can collect treble damages, attorney fees and other relief.
Secondly, I have received confirmation that the FBI investigation remains stalled. As of two weeks ago, the FBI’s priorities switched from the SGUSA investigation to that of a child abduction. Tragically, the eight year old girl, Sandra Cantu, was just found dead, discovered in a suitcase in a drained pond not far from her home. Understandably, the Cantu abduction case had to be a priority for the FBI. However, it is inconceivable to me that the FBI does not have additonal resources to continue multiple investigations simultaneously. Furthermore, it does not explain why there was little or no activity in the two weeks following the report of the SGUSA fraud to the FBI and the disappearance of Sandra Cantu. Make no mistake, I am not faulting the FBI for concentrating their efforts on locating the abducted child. My criticism is that they delayed for more than two weeks after the SGUSA scandal was reported to them and could not find any additional resources to pursue other investigations.
So even though the FBI investigation has stalled, victims will soon have the satisfaction of knowing that the civil justice system will begin the process of holding Collins and her co-conspirators liable for their actions. It will also be very satisfying to hear the words “Tonya Collins” and “Racketeer” in the same sentence.
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