More details are emerging in advance of the February 24th sentencing hearing for Theresa Erickson and Carla Chambers. Among the new issues that are raised by the release of the FBI’s wiretap recordings is whether Ms. Erickson’s surrogacy agency, Conceptual Options (which she owned and operated while being the “mastermind” of the baby trafficking ring), was in anyway involved. This is now the second allegation that has arisen in which Conceptual Options has been mentioned. Earlier this week, Greg Moran of the Union Tribune reported on the restitution claim filed by Sharp in which the hospital stated it lost $614,860 “on seven births from surrogates who were working for Erickson’s business, Conceptual Options.”
Here are the transcripts of the wiretaps:
Undercover wiretap recordings have been released to News 8 in the case of a San Diego-based baby selling ring. The audio tapes show how easy it was for babies to be bought and sold on the black market. One woman heard on the recordings is Taylor Stein, a Los Angeles mother who had agreed to pay $180,000 for what she believed was going to be a blonde-haired baby boy delivered by a surrogate mother. Stein became an unwilling participant in the black market baby ring run by Poway surrogacy attorney Theresa Erickson, Las Vegas resident Carla Chambers and Maryland attorney Hilary Neiman.
Erickson, Chambers and Neiman have all pleaded guilty to federal crimes associated with the baby farming operation. Taylor Stein was recorded by the FBI when she telephoned Neiman and expressed her frustration over the lack of information on who donated the sperm and egg to create her unborn, surrogate child.
“We have a huge problem here and I mean huge,” Stein said during the wiretap recording. “My child now has zero genetic information. You have sent me lies. I am looking at two blonde donors but I bet you my baby doesn’t come out blonde haired. Let’s make a bet, okay?” “Now I really don’t care because I would have taken a black baby, a blue baby, I don’t give a shit,” Stein continued. “But this is a fraud and you are not going to make a fool out of me. You are a sociopath. You are a flesh peddler. I am going to have the Federalies at your front door.”
Stein recently told her story to Anderson Cooper on his syndicated, daytime talk show. “I had false documents. I had information on the donors that was fictitious,” said Stein, who helped the FBI bust the baby-selling ring wide open and ended up adopting the baby born by the surrogate mother.
Federal prosecutors say Erickson, Chamber and Neiman ran an illegal a baby farming operation where surrogate mothers were flown to the Ukraine to undergo in vitro fertilization. Once the surrogate became pregnant and the sex of the baby was known, intended parents were solicited to sign illegal contracts and purchase the babies for more $100,000 each, according to court documents.
Eventually, some of the surrogate mothers became suspicious and went to the FBI. In one recorded conversation, Chambers is grilled by an outside attorney questioning the legality of the baby-selling operation. In California, surrogacy contracts are only legal if they are signed prior to the pregnancy.
“I do not comprehend why you think this is still a surrogacy when you didn’t have a contract before she got pregnant,” the attorney said to Chambers on the wiretap recording. “What makes you think you can get away with that?” “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a lawyer,” responded Chambers.
Erickson is also caught on tape talking about fraudulent insurance claims that helped pay for the births in California at taxpayer expense. She is questioned by an agent pretending to be an insurance auditor investigating claims addressed to Erickson’s company, Conceptual Options. “These women don’t necessarily pay the (medical) bills. I have to pay the bills,” Erickson said on tape. “For these women, a lot of them will use the office address because we want to make sure the bills come to us.”