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Rockville lawyer gives up license after baby-ring plea

A Rockville adoption and surrogacy lawyer who admitted she was involved in an illegal baby-selling ring has been disbarred by consent.

The Court of Appeals’ order last week followed Hilary M. Neiman’s guilty plea in a California federal court July 28 to having conspired to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to sell babies born to surrogate mothers.

Federal prosecutors said Neiman fraudulently told prospective parents that the surrogate mothers had made valid agreements with other adoptive parents who had backed out. Neiman then told the new prospective parents they could “assume” the nonexistent surrogacy agreement for a fee of more than $100,000, the prosecutors alleged.

Neiman, who was a solo practitioner, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in San Diego. She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Neiman did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.

In their charging document, prosecutors alleged Neiman’s involvement in the conspiracy began in 2008 and ran until last March. Her alleged co-conspirators, California adoption attorney Theresa Erickson and Carla Chambers, started the scheme in 2005, prosecutors said.

According to the prosecution, the three women conspired to evade a California law that permits an automatic transfer of parental rights only when the surrogate mother, or “gestational carrier,” has an agreement with the “intended parents” before she is implanted with an embryo. If the agreement is reached after implantation, the transfer of parental rights can be achieved only through adoption.

“Knowing that a legitimate surrogacy arrangement required an agreement between [Intended Parents] and [Gestational Carriers] prior to any embryonic transfer, the conspirators would arrange for GCs (including Chambers herself) to receive embryonic transfers without having identified a single IP, much less having a prior surrogacy agreement in place between the GCs and any IPs,” the charging document said.

The prosecution added that women were “solicited to travel overseas to become implanted with embryos in order to create a steady flow of newborns with the promise that they would be paid between $38,000 and $45,000 for each successful pregnancy that resulted in birth.”

The prosecution did not state how many babies were transferred as part of the scheme.

Erickson, who has voluntarily stopped practicing law, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August.

Chamber, a non-attorney, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from illegal activity.

Erickson and Chamber are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28. Like Neiman, both women face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.