Kiwis 'shattered' by US surrogacy scam

PRETEND PREGNANCY: Oregon fraudster Audrey Magallon in court.
PRETEND PREGNANCY: Oregon fraudster Audrey Magallon in court.

A Kiwi couple whose dreams of having a baby were "totally shattered" by a surrogacy scam have spoken of their pain and betrayal after learning they had been tricked into sending sperm and cash to a stranger.

Helensville couple James Hapurona and Leanne Greenwood were desperate for a baby when they met American fraudster Audrey Magallon online.

Magallon was sentenced to jail in Oregon at the weekend after admitting that she pretended to be pregnant while scamming two couples for money to pay for babies that did not exist.

The Daily Astorian, in northwest Oregon, reported that Magallon, 31, was sentenced to 20 days in jail, two years' probation, and ordered to pay about US$10,000 (NZ$12,800) to her victims.

The Clatsop County Circuit Court heard from Mr Hapurona and Ms Greenwood by speaker phone. "I doubt very much that Audrey has any remorse about what she has done," Ms Greenwood said. Mr Hapurona said the couple felt "violated" by the betrayal.

Deputy District Attorney Scott McCracken read a statement from the couple which described how their dreams of having a baby were "totally shattered".

They had been "desperate and extremely vulnerable" when they were exploited by Magallon, he said.

As well as "biological material", they sent more than $2650 (US$2000) to the woman, who agreed to give birth to their child.

Magallon falsely claimed that she had impregnated herself with the sperm and sent the couple doctored images of positive pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. The mother of four used images from her previous pregnancies.

In court, Magallon admitted two charges of theft, one of identity theft and two of using a computer to commit a crime, The Daily Astorian reported.

Judge Paula Brownhill described her actions as a "web of lies". "You have caused these people unspeakable grief."

The court heard from the other couple, from Washington state, who described buying baby clothes and imagining for five months what life would be like when they brought home their "bundle of joy".

The court was told that Magallon's children had been taken away by the state of Oregon because of the proceedings. Her attorney, John Orr, said she needed treatment for "unresolved trauma from her childhood".

She appeared in court in shackles, wearing an orange prison jacket.

She denied that she felt remorse only because she had been caught. "I am sorry for what I did, but `I'm sorry' doesn't mean an awful lot."

The Dominion Post