Selma woman accused of bilking money from childless couples
Posted May 7, 2014
Smithfield, N.C. — A Selma woman is accused of bilking thousands of dollars from local couples who hired her to provide egg donation and surrogate services as they tried starting families.
Jennifer Anne Soronen, 41, of 269 Serenity Pointe Drive, was jailed Wednesday under a $150,000 bond after a grand jury indicted her Monday on an embezzlement charge.
Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation say she took approximately $170,000 from the trust fund of her Smithfield business – Baby Steps Egg Donation & Surrogacy Agency – that clients paid for doctor's visits and other needs of surrogate carriers.
The SBI launched an investigation in December after receiving complaints in multiple counties.
The Better Business Bureau began receiving complaints about Soronen's business in 2012, and several people posted complaints on the business bureau's website about the business.
One couple said after paying more than $14,000 in initial costs, they never heard back from Baby Steps about a carrier.
"I find it reprehensible that someone would prey on a couple desperate to have a child and take their money and not bother to call them back or let them know anything," the complaint stated. "Not only has our money been taken, but our trust has been broken, and we may never be able to move forward with finding a carrier now."
On a website for her business, Soronen says she became a surrogate mother herself after she "felt a great sense of injustice" because some couples could not have children.
During a first court appearance Wednesday, her attorney said Soronen is a single mom caring for four children of her own.