Couples fall victim to surrogate fraud

Increasingly surrogacy services offer rich pickings for con artists. In Britain this week a high-profile 28-year-old surrogate mother pleaded guilty to defrauding two couples whom she contacted on the internet. Louise Pollard’s technique was to get a deposit from a couple, feign pregnancy and then an early miscarriage. One couple lost 10,000 pounds.

Ms Pollard had been in the tabloids before as the surrogate mother hired by Omar bin Laden, a son of Osama bin Laden, who married a British woman in her 50s who could not have children of her own. She even posed with a positive pregnancy test for the tabloids – before she miscarried.

Ms Pollard worked as a personal assistant and a pole dancer before discovering what she described as her “calling”. She has given birth to at least two children for other couples and has a son of her own.

Her brother Shaun McLoughlin had no sympathy for her. "The parents pinned all their hopes on her. They had to go through the agony of believing they were going to have a child and then that the baby had died. Who would do that to another human being?" he said.

And in the United States, a well-known surrogacy agency, Planet Hospital, has gone into bankruptcy, with about US$1 million owed to its clients. Its founder and CEO Rudy Rupak Acharya says that he is “devastated and remorseful”. One client, Jonathan Dailey, a lawyer, claims that he lost $30,000 and complained to Al Jazeera America that he had "never seen that level of fraud". "He [Mr Acharya] was a master of diplomacy, of making you feel warm and fuzzy about Planet Hospital," Dailey alleged. "His fraud knew no international boundaries."

However, had Mr Acharya’s clients read the Planet Hospital blog more closely, they would have realised that they were dealing with someone who had more in common with a used-car salesman than a medical specialist. Here is a selection from his patter about a new Mexican clinic after India banned surrogacy for gay couples and single people:

“I am developing a distinction of becoming a professional pioneer. First I pioneered medical tourism, then Indian surrogacy for western patients, then gay surrogacy in India, surrogacy in Panama, the first HIV surrogacy, kidney transplants with a global donor exchange, micro insurance, and who knows what else. Now I get to pioneer surrogacy in Mexico and Thailand all while watching surrogacy in India unravel spectacularly.”

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