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Surrogate agency owner pleads guilty to bilking couples

Posted May 5, 2015

Jennifer Soronen sits in a Johnston County courtroom May 7, 2014, after being indicted on an embezzlement charge. Authorities say she used her Smithfield business, Baby Steps Egg Donation & Surrogacy Agency, to bilk money from couples seeking her services.
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— The owner of a Johnson County firm that provided surrogate mothers pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing from the childless couples she promised to help.

Jennifer Soronen, 42, of 269 Serenity Pointe Drive in Selma, was sentenced to between four and 9½ years in prison after pleading guilty to 11 counts of conversion by bailee. She also was ordered to pay $183,387 in restitution to her victims.

Soronen ran Baby Steps Egg Donation, which tried to match couples unable to have children with surrogate mothers. The company was shut down early last year after complaints from couples that the surrogates weren't receiving promised payments prompted a state investigation.

Like many states, North Carolina has no laws specifically dealing with surrogacy.

Prosecutors said the investigation determined that Soronen took much of the money couples paid for the surrogates and spent it herself on things such as breast augmentation surgery and hair and nail treatments.

"The defendant inflicted extreme emotional and mental anguish upon the victims in this case, many of whom were using her as a last resort to have a child," Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle said in a statement. "We can only hope that today’s sentencing of the defendant can bring some closure to the victims so that they may begin to move forward from this devastating experience.”


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