Surrogacy scam unites Valley families
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A $2 million surrogacy scam defrauded dozens of people out of money and for some, a final chance at parenthood. Tonya Collins, 37, was sentenced to 5 years in prison on Monday for defrauding clients through her Modesto-based agency between 2006 and 2009.
While many people were scammed out of thousands of dollars, the fraud united two families, including a Fresno couple.
Katie Froman and her husband of Fresno have three children -- a blessing she said she wanted other couples to experience. So she signed up as a surrogate through SurroGenesis U.S.A. in June of 2007. Soon after, she was matched with a couple and became pregnant -- but revelations of fraud surfaced from the agency.
"We found out everything that was going on when I was 7 and a half months pregnant with twins. That's when Tonya skipped town and everything went crazy," said Katie Froman.
On Monday, Tonya Collins -- the woman behind SurroGenesis -- was sentenced to federal prison over a $2 million surrogacy scam. Court documents reveal Collins created a fake financial firm to hold clients' funds and used it for personal expenses.
Fortunately, Katie was not impacted by the fraud but the same could not be said for the more than 50 other victims. "I was just blown away that somebody could be so heartless and take something that's so important to so many people. It's not like you're stealing money, it was people's hopes and dreams that she took," said Katie.
In 2010, Katie came across the story of Beth and Marcio Mardones -- a Chicago couple scammed out of $20,000 and the chance at parenthood. "I just felt that all of our hopes of having our own biological child were shattered," said Beth Mardones.
"My heart was broken for them. I was literally crying watching their interview and I just felt like I needed to help them," said Katie. So she reached out through Facebook, offering to give birth to the couple's child without charging a surrogate fee -- an opportunity they could not pass up.
"We went through several tries but we did end up having a baby of our own. It's just a blessing," said Beth.
Their baby, Jake, is now 14 months old and is the special link that unites the two families -- who turned a tragic situation of fraud into one of hope and happiness. "Even though Tonya Collins is not a good person, and what she did was wrong, there's still people out there that do the right thing and step up when the time comes," said Jay Froman, Katie's husband.
Collins will have to pay restitution to the victims she defrauded. She will start serving her 5-year sentence on June 27th.
crimetracker, scams, modesto, local, carlos saucedo
- USGS: 6.9 earthquake hits 50 miles west of Eureka
- Vietnam says cannot find object from missing jet
- Police: Man killed in Fresno gang-related shooting
- Man accused of killing Parlier coach identified
- 1 arrested, 1 sought after Visalia Save Mart robbery
- Woman fatally shot by Fresno police identified
- Mexico government 100 pct sure drug capo killed
- 2 dozen injured as California school stage falls
- New Target store opens in Northwest Fresno
- Pistorius trial: Stunning testimony in 1st week
- Putin defends separatist drive in Crimea as legal
- Lions owner William Clay Ford dies at 88
- Free health care enrollment fair held in Fresno
- 3D printer and Twitter used to make Oreo cookies