FRESNO, California — The owner of a surrogate parenting agency was sentenced Monday to prison for a fraud scheme carried out through her Central California-based operation, a prosecutor said.
Tonya Ann Collins — the owner of Surrogenesis USA Inc. in Modesto — was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said.
The sentencing came after Collins, 37, agreed to a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty in February to four counts of wire fraud.
The government said Collins took money from prospective parents and used it for personal expenses, including automobiles, homes, jewelry, clothing and vacations, between November 2006 and March 2009.
Collins held client funds in another company she owned called Michal Charles Independent Financial Holding Group, which she said was an unrelated escrow company that would hold clients' money and pay expenses associated with the surrogacy process, authorities said.
Collins concealed her ownership and operation of the escrow company, prosecutors say, creating fictitious employee identities to make it appear that Michael Charles was an independent company with its own staff.
As a result, Collins' clients, surrogates and other businesses suffered losses of more than $2.4 million. In some cases, the fraud permanently foreclosed victims' ability to proceed with a surrogate pregnancy, prosecutors said.
Collins will have to report to prison on June. 27. As part of her sentencing, she will also have to pay restitution to victims.