When people place their faith in someone, and in turn have been cheated financially, it can be agonizing. But when it’s about dreams of starting, it’s utterly heart-breaking for the victims and beyond despicable for the cheater.
Planet Hospital, founded by the regarded shyster, Rudy Rupak, 45, has caused both financial and emotional distress for many couples wanting a baby.
Established in California in 2002, Planet Hospital is a medical tourism company and a self-promoting soapbox for Rupak.
In the New York Times, Tamara Lewin wrote a comprehensive article titled, A Surrogacy Agency That Delivered Heartache.
Lewin writes about Rupak and his business, “Over the last decade he has held forth about how his company has helped Americans head overseas for affordable tummy tucks and hip replacements. And after he expanded his business to include surrogacy in India for Western couples grappling with infertility — and then in Thailand, and last year, Mexico — he increasingly took credit for the global spread of surrogacy.” She continues, “But now Mr. Rupak is in involuntary bankruptcy proceedings, under investigation by the F.B.I. and being pursued by dozens of furious clients from around the world who accuse him of taking their money and dashing their dreams of starting a family.”
Let me intervene here by saying that according to CBS News, although Rupak’s surrogacy business is closed and undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, he still operates his other medical tourism procedures around the globe.
Dumbfounding, isn’t it?
Now, let’s get back to the New York Times publication.
The article goes on to highlight how Planet Hospital attracted intended parents to countries such as Mexico and India because of the price tag. Egg donors, IVF clinics and surrogates were half the cost as compared to the U.S.A.
In the article, Johnathan C. Dailey, an attorney in Washington, had the misfortune of doing business with Rupak. In Dec. 2013, he wired his initial installment of $37,000 to Planet Hospital. The intended monies were going toward a surrogate living in Mexico.
The reporter writes, “He [Dailey] and his fiancée flew to Cancún to leave a sperm deposit at the clinic that would create the embryo and to visit the downtown house where their surrogate would live while pregnant. They picked a ‘premium’ egg donor from the agency Planet Hospital sent them to.”
Then all activity stopped.
Dailey said in the article, “It was just outright fraud. It’s like we paid money to buy a condo, they took the money, and there was no condo. But it’s worse, because it’s about having a baby.”
Then there’s Rhyannon Morrigan and her husband who signed a surrogacy contract in 2012 based in India.
She told the reporter, “By the time you realize how deep you’re in, you’ve lost all your money and you’re stuck.”
Looking back, Morrigan said how Planet Hospital exchanges were mainly verbal, and rarely, was anything put in writing.
Morrigan also admits that there were red flags early on.
She said to the press, “Even at the start, when we sent the contract in and asked for a signed copy back, we never got one.” She went on to say, “We got so tired of excuses and lies. By July 2013, I’d pretty much let go of the idea of getting my money back, but I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
To help warn others of the heart-wrenching scam, Morrigan posted her reviews and complaints on cyberspace. In return, she received “threats” from Rupak.
The list of Planet Hospital complaints is a lengthy one.
In the article, former Planet Hospital employee, Catherine Moscarello, chimed in. She described the company as dealing in “unsavory practices.
Moscarello told the reporter, “The object was to get money.”
Like a revolving door, Moscarello explained how Rupak would frequently change fertility clinics.
“….whenever his relationship with a clinic in India or Thailand or Cancún broke off, he would disparage the clinic and the doctors there.” Moscarello said. She continued, “But what was really happening was that he wasn’t paying his bills.”
Back on his soapbox, Rupak said in an interview, “What happened is entirely 100 percent my fault, but its mismanagement rather than outright fraud.”
More lies, don’t you think?
The New York Times reporter so eloquently writes, “The emerging Planet Hospital story, which Mr. Rupak characterized as one of mismanagement rather than fraud, stands as a cautionary tale about the proliferation of unregulated surrogacy agencies, their lack of accountability and their ability to prey on vulnerable clients who want a baby so badly that they do not notice all the red flags.”
Quite honestly, I couldn’t have stated it better myself.Read More
The announcement of the surrogate delivering a baby boy this week for Sally and Shepherd sparked a new wave of media frenzy. The couple are in the midst of a divorce and according to reports, it’s Shepherd who wants to terminate the surrogacy contract.
Through IVF, Sally’s sperm was used as well as an egg donor for the couple.
Reporter for the New York Daily News, Nancy Dillon reports, “Shepherd was not present for the birth of Lamar Sally Jr. and wants the courts to dismiss the surrogacy contract she signed with his dad, Lamar. She claims she was tricked into the contract and shouldn’t have to pay child support to Lamar Sally, who filed for divorce.”
The reporter goes on to say that Sally is thoroughly enjoying fatherhood.
The reporter who spoke to close Sally sources writes, “He’s loving everything about being a dad, but he misses (Shepherd) and wishes they could have all been a family, because the baby is wonderful.”
Lamar Sally Jr., also known as “L.J.,” has yet to be seen by Shepherd and it appears that’s how she wants it. She’s pleading to the courts to dismiss the surrogacy contract deeming it was based on fraud.
Shepherd’s claiming Sally intended to have this baby, divorce her, and receive child support.
As I mentioned in previous blogs about this topic, fraud will be hard to prove.
Dillon writes, “A judge handling the couple’s divorce case heard arguments Wednesday but declined to issue a dismissal decision ‘at this time’ pending ‘further findings’ by a court in Pennsylvania.”
A continuance date is set for Oct. 29.
Meanwhile, the reporter points out, Sally intends to raise the boy as a single parent but wants Shepherd to help with the cost.
While the legal battle continues, let’s not forget that there’s an innocent baby in the middle of all this. Moving forward, we hope the judge rules quickly — and in the best interest of this child.Read More
We can all unanimously agree that the news on Baby Gammy saddens us all.
Recent reports are lighting up cyberspace. And as always, there seems to be conflicting information in the crossfire. While I have provided, here, some recent media selections, at the end, I will share my thoughts in an effort to shed more light.
For those who need an update on the situation, here is an excerpt from CNN’s recent article, Australian couple defends decision to leave Down’s baby with Thai surrogate.
Hilary Whiteman, reports, “What was supposed to be a straightforward cash deal to carry a child for desperate parents has turned into an international spat over who said what, and exposed the darker side of a business credited with creating happiness for many couples. At the center of the debate is Gammy, a seven-month-old Down Syndrome baby with a congenital heart condition who is currently receiving treatment for a lung infection at a private hospital in Thailand. She continues, “For days, Gammy’s surrogate mother, 21-year-old Thai food stall worker Pattharamon Chanbua, has been telling local and foreign press that the couple abandoned their son, taking home his healthy sister.”
The Western Australian couple, David Farnell and his wife are under fire. In the article, their friend tells the media that the Farnell family was told that Gammy was extremely ill and would not survive a day, at most.
With the all the media attention, the husband, Farnell, has been scrutinized and reporters dug up an alarming sex offender past.
Hours ago, Yahoo News published their article, Baby Gammy Court Documents Reveal Father Of Surrogacy Babies Has Been Convicted Of More Than 20 Child Sex Offences. It uncovered that Farnell had 22 child sex convictions.
Yahoo reporter wrote, “Mr. Farnell was sentenced to three years’ jail in 1997 for sexually molesting two girls, who were aged 7 and 10 at the time of the offences, in 1982 and 1983. Court documents reveal he molested the children when they were visiting him at his home. The victims made complaints when they were adults, and Mr. Farnell pleaded guilty to 18 charges.” The article goes on to read, “In sentencing, Justice Michael O’Sullivan said the victims had been ‘robbed of their childhood’ and suffered emotional problems as a result.”
The article states how the Western Australia’s Department for Child Protection has launched an investigation into the safety of Gammy’s twin sister.
And we all hope that this investigation is swift and the right decision is made regarding the best interest of this little baby girl.
The Baby Gammy case and everything that is being revealed naturally shakes our inner foundation and forces us to question the core of humanity.
Through it all, as heart-wrenching as it is, there is something I need to convey. Not just from an attorney standpoint, but as a woman who struggled with her fertility.
Without the help of a surrogate 13 years ago, I never would have had my incredible twins. It’s because of my surrogate’s selflessness and her willingness to make my parenthood dreams come true, that I have my children.
Although we don’t know all sides, the case of Baby Gammy, especially in reference to Farnell’s sexual predator history is very upsetting. However, I don’t want this to be the focus, and ultimately, the “poster” for surrogacy — because it’s not.
Including my husband, and myself so many other couples and individuals have become parents because of a surrogate.
That’s what surrogates do: they help make women and men become mothers and fathers.
This one case should not ruin it for the entire industry.
If it did, not only would it be unfortunate to so many intended parents, but it would be a huge disservice to the industry if that’s how the world-wide community responded, including The Hague and other countries.
While the news on Baby Gammy continues to emerge, including Farnell’s sex convictions on minors, let’s not forget that this is not the norm.
Baby Gammy updates are making mainstream news. And yes, it wholeheartedly deserves the attention.
However, as a professional assisted reproductive law attorney, and also a mother from my surrogacy journey, Baby Gammy is not a representation of how surrogacy is conducted in the U.S.A.
While Baby Gammy is initiating discussion on surrogacy, there must be proper educational dialogue on the positive impact that surrogacy makes to so many families.
Let’s not let this one unfortunate case destroy the dreams of parenthood for so many.Read More
The debate regarding egg and sperm donation continues. And I suspect we are going to see a lot more of it.
It’s one of monumental importance, because in this century, we are redefining family law and all its nuances.
In courtrooms, we’re hearing questions regarding “who is” or “who is not” considered a legal parent, challenging state laws across the nation. It’s marking a new type of courtroom drama.
And high profile cases are sprouting in California.
For instance, Hollywood celebrity, Jason Patric, and his former girlfriend Danielle Schreiber are in the middle of a contentious case. Patric is seeking custody of his four-year-old son who he fathered by after Schreiber was artificially inseminated. She says he’s a “sperm donor” and should have no legal rights. He says he’s a “dad” and should have all legal rights.
This case, among others, is netting the attention of the Golden State.
“California lawmakers will consider updating family law and parental rights to keep up with the evolving nature of families when they return from summer break,” wrote Fenit Nirappil of the Associated Press in an article entitled, Bills aim to bring family law into 21st century. “Bitter, high-profile disputes have inspired legislators to modernize laws molded for ‘Leave it to Beaver’-era families.”
In the article, among Patric are the children of the late Casey Kasem. Also fathered through sperm donation, these children fought Kasem’s wife to see him during his declining health. Likewise, she is their stepmother.
Nirappil writes, “Supporters of these bills say such cases demonstrate that laws are lagging behind technology and social change. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat and longtime gay rights advocate, said updating the laws is just one way for nontraditional families to gain acceptance.”
Firsthand, on the legal frontlines, I am seeing how times are changing. We are now in an age where nontraditional families are transforming into traditional ones.
In the Associated Press article, Ammiano states, “As a lawmaker, what you can accomplish is changing what’s in the law that’s being detrimental and dehumanizing.”
This point of view aligns well with a recent legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown. Last month, he removed the definition of marriage between a “man and woman” in family law. Now, any indication of a husband or wife has now been swapped with the word, “spouse.”
Nirappil goes on to report, “With gay marriage legalized in California last year, the Senate is considering Ammiano’s ‘Modern Family Act’ to confront thorny situations same-sex and other couples have found themselves in under existing law. The bill, AB2344, would expedite adoptions for non-biological parents, such as a lesbian woman whose spouse gave birth to their child.”
Nirappil pointed out how the bill would take away any procedural requirement(s) which add to a court hearing or state mandated investigation.
Non-biological parents are encouraged to formally adopt children because some states do not recognize them as parents even though California does, the reporter writes.
For surrogates and sperm donors, AB2344 also highlights their legal or financial responsibilities. Some legal experts in the family law field, Nirappil reports, do regard this as an important step toward better clarification to avoid disputes.
Also in the article, Bills aim to bring family law into 21st century, law professor at the University of California at Davis, Lisa Ikemoto, voices her opinion.
“Most of the laws we have in place deal with the use of these technologies once they have already been used and the child is born.”
This new legislative bill, among others, will help fill that gap.
“Broader legislation that failed last year would have allowed sperm donors to petition for paternal rights if they demonstrate involvement in their biological children’s lives,” Nirappil wrote. He continued, “The new bill, AB2344, instead would create an optional form that would clarify what, if any, role a sperm donor should have in a child’s life.”
The reporter goes on to point out that in a legal battle such as Patric’s, what’s not addressed is what happens if a donor takes on a parental role despite how the initial agreement was originally signed.
Personally speaking, I’m sure Patric’s ex-girlfriend wished she used an anonymous sperm donor instead of a known one. But of course, some people are not comfortable with using anonymous donors — it’s all a personal choice.
Hopefully, new progressive assembly bills waiting in the wings can resolve messy “sperm donor” cases like Patric is embroiled in.
Social conservatives, of course, don’t want to shake up the status quo of traditional family law.
But look around, and you’ll see that the “traditional family status quo” is no longer the “status quo.Read More
Undoubtedly, this case will be followed closely. It lit up the headlines a few weeks ago and will stay lit until a final legal decision.
For those who need an update, here’s what’s going on.
While Sherri Shepherd and Lamar Sally move forward with their divorce proceedings, the issue of their baby which is being carried via surrogate will be a major part of the ruling.
And it should be. The best interest of this unborn child takes precedence.
Earlier this month, Shepherd made headlines touting she no longer wanted to have this baby since her acrimonious breakup. The baby is due within two weeks.
FoxNews recently wrote an in-depth piece entitled, “Can Sherri Shepherd walk away from unborn surrogate child?”
While it gives a decent back story, it leans on legal experts, as well.
As many can expect, Shepherd’s is getting some heat and harsh words from her willingness to close the door on this unborn baby.
Reporter, Hollie McKay wrote, “…her estranged husband Lamar Sally is preparing to file legal documents to stop her withdrawing from a surrogate contract she signed while they were still together. The couple each filed separate divorce documents in early May.” Mckay continued, “Sally is said to be the biological father of the child, while an egg donor was reportedly used through in-vitro fertilization.”
An unnamed source who knows Shepherd told FOX411that Shepherd wanted nothing to do with the baby and refuses to pay child support, McKay wrote. This source shared with Fox News, “She is not budging and is completely detached. She feels very just in her actions and claims the child is not hers.”
What Shepherd feels and what Shepherd’s legal responsibilities are can be quite different following a judge’s ruling.
Shepherd and Sally were married in 2011. In the article, Fox News reported that Shepherd has a net worth of $10 million, whereas Sally has less. In 2010, his reported earnings were $30,000.
McKay reports, “Shepherd claims that Sally defrauded her from entering into the surrogate agreement, alleging that he planned to file for divorce but wanted her commitment to paying child support.”
And since Shepherd is the breadwinner, she’d more than likely be making the payments.
Looking ahead, McKay asked a couple legal experts their forecasted opinions about this case.
While divorces are generally always complicated, this one has been made more so because Shepherd filed for divorce in New Jersey and Sally filed in California.
McKay noted that New Jersey doesn’t normally recognize surrogacy whereas California does.
“But legal experts say California will most likely take the first stab at the case,” Mckay writes.
McKay turned to Jeffrey Hoffer, a divorce and family attorney in California for legal feedback.
“Whoever served his or her case first will win on which state court will hear the matter. But I am inclined to believe that despite the fact that she did not carry the child and the egg is not hers, that in California she will still be on the hook for child support because she signed a contract and the court will find the payment of support is in the child’s best interest,” said Hoffer, quoted in the article. He went on to say, “You do not get to make babies by contract or otherwise and then get to walk away from your obligations.”
During the interview, Hoffer mentioned to McKay that if social services were to intervene, the baby could end up in foster care. But since money is not an issue, the parents of this child will be paying for its support.
Hoffer told Mckay, “This is a child, not a piece of property. And if Lamar wanted to use a baby to get support that would have been a stupid thing to do because the responsibility of raising a child vastly outweighs the amount of money he’ll receive in return.”
McKay then turned to Leo Terrell of CleartheCourt.com for some answers.
“A divorce court will rule that both husband and wife will have responsibility in taking care of the surrogate child, and given that Sherri is the biggest earner, she will most likely have to foot the child support bills,” Terrell said in the article.
While it’s been “mum’s the word” for Shepherd’s public relation reps, a Twitter post appeared on cyberspace earlier this week.
Shepherd typed, “Keep the prayers coming… Still got more battles – please judge me by my character and not from the tabloids who are having a slow news day.”
Speaking of days, they are nearing for the arrival of this baby. Egos have to be tossed aside so this baby can get the love and care it deserves.Read More
San Diego reporters from ABC Team 10 pursued Steve Liss for some answers. It isn’t the first time Liss has come face to face with a television news crew.
In San Diego, Liss has earned notoriety as a local con man.
Yes, this is the same man who tried to allegedly solicit a “murder-for-hire scheme” aimed at his wife. Eventually, the District Attorney’s office dropped the case due to a lack of evidence.
But let’s fast forward to a couple days ago.
Team 10 found Liss, a disbarred attorney, and wanted answers about him seeking egg donors and surrogates which appeared to be another suspected scam.
Reporter, Mitch Blacher, caught up with Liss.
“There’s a woman in Idaho,” Blacher said, keeping up the pace with Liss hurriedly walking in San Diego. “You took her $7,500, after promising her a baby – why don’t you give her money back?”
For those who have followed Liss over the years, he goes by different aliases, and occasionally, hangs a shingle along the San Diego coastline for a new business venture.
The woman in Idaho spoke to Team 10 but only did so if they did not use her last name.
Team 10 complied.
The woman had undergone heartache following the birth of her stillborn baby, they reported. Such sadness and grief prompted her to look into adoption.
Melissa told reporters, “It actually sounded like a great opportunity,” referring to hiring Liss.
The news report went on to say, “Liss took advantage of her when she was at an emotional vulnerable point. She said Liss took her money, but never was able to adopt a baby through his business.”
To date, she has not received any of her money back.
And there’s more.
Team 10 also talked to another woman with a complaint against Liss by the name of Andrea Zelones. Liss wanted her as his administrative assistant for his business. Zelones did her homework on Google to see what she could find.
“I went, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Zelones told the news team.
They reported, “She found several past Team 10 stories on Liss, including when his attorney’s license was revoked by the California Bar Association. His license was revoked for cheating clients in many different cases, including divorce and adoptions.”
Zelones told Team 10 that Liss claimed his business was successful in creating new families through surrogacy.
She told reporters, “He says he places hundreds of ads a week, looking for surrogates and donors.”
This revelation led researchers at the newsroom to dig a little more and this is what they found.
“Because he is disbarred, it is illegal for Liss to advertise a family law practice, but that is what Team 10 found him doing. This is what led Team 10 to his most recent office in Pacific Beach,” they said.
When Blacher started asking questions about the woman in Idaho and his apparent surrogacy business, Liss didn’t give any response. Instead, he allegedly assaulted the reporter to obtain the camera recording him.
The scene then escalated, according to Team 10.
“As Blacher followed him and continued to ask questions, Liss swung a bag filled with garbage at the reporter. The bag opened, and spilled litter on the road. Liss picked it all up, and then kept walking through someone’s personal property to get to an alley to get away from Team 10.”
And yes, Team 10 filed a police report.
A spokesperson from the district attorney’s office has been made aware of the latest Liss developments and is researching the case.
Before Liss was disbarred, NBC San Diego reported some time ago that he was admitted into the bar in 1987, specializing in adoptions and family law. Eric S. Page went on to write, “State bar association records reveal that Liss has been disciplined for failure to perform competent legal services and failure to promptly refund unearned legal fees,….”
News coverage like this is an opportunity to reiterate how to find reputable representation.
While there are a few avenues to find the right surrogate and reproductive attorney, teaming up with a reputable egg donor and surrogate agency is the first step. Agencies in good standing will know attorneys who are licensed in particular states and familiar with the domestic and international laws pertaining to gestational surrogacy.
In many ways, finding the right attorney is equally as important as finding the right surrogate to carry your baby.Read More
Surrogacy is a topic making headlines ranging from legalities, ethics, to parenthood dreams come true.
The New York Times recently published an in-depth article entitled, “Foreign Couples Heading to America for Surrogate Pregnancies.”
Reporter, Tamar Lewin wrote, “While babies through surrogacy have become increasingly common in the United States, with celebrities like Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon openly discussing how they started a family, the situation is quite different in Portugal — as it is in most of the world where the hiring of a woman to carry a child is forbidden.”
Recently, a gay couple living in Lisbon celebrated the photo of their baby’s first ultrasound. Across the globe, a woman in Pennsylvania was their surrogate.
Lewin reported, “Everyone was shocked, and asked everything about how we do this,” said Paulo, who spoke on the condition that neither his last name nor that of his husband, João, be used since what they were doing is a crime in Portugal.” She went on to say, “And as Paulo and João have discovered, even bringing home a baby born abroad through surrogacy can be complicated.”
Paulo and João are one of many foreign couples facing these surrogacy hurdles.
Including the United States, other countries such as Mexico, India, Thailand and the Ukraine permit paid surrogacy.
“The traffic highlights a divide between the United States and much of the world over fundamental questions about what constitutes a family, who is considered a legal parent, who is eligible for citizenship and whether paid childbirth is a service or exploitation,” Lewin wrote.
According to the article, currently, more than 2,000 babies are being born through gestational surrogacy. This number includes domestic and international couples.
While some states forbid surrogacy, states like California allow it, and the women are compensated. And why shouldn’t they be for what they are going through?
Thankfully, in this New York Times article, they touched upon the point of view of surrogates.
“Many women who have had a fulfilling surrogate experience go on to carry a second, or third, child for the same couple, finding pleasure in being pregnant and conferring the gift of a child and a continuing connection with another family, while earning money in the process,” the reporter wrote. “Kelly, a licensed practical nurse in Pennsylvania with two children who asked not to have her last name used to protect her privacy, delivered a baby, Nico, for two German men, Thomas Reuss and Dennis Reuther, in 2012.”
Kelly decided to help the couple once again and is pregnant with two twin boys.
Kelly told the reporter, “The money is nice, but we could manage without it, and it’s not why I’m doing this.”
While surrogacy started in the United States nearly 30 years ago, legal experts claim the emergence of surrogacy may spark new court cases, and inevitably, new laws.
Because surrogacy is allowing couples all over the world an opportunity to have a child, the next issue is addressing how to bring these babies home.
Lewin wrote, “For those from abroad, getting an American-born baby home can involve tangled immigration problems. Some countries require a new birth certificate, a parental order or an adoption. Some will not accept an American birth certificate with two fathers listed as the parents.” She continued, “Occasionally, a baby can be denied entry into the parents’ home country.”
Intended parents who are thrilled to bring home their new baby sometimes come face-to-face with the laws in their country which may deflate their immediate joy.
Having worked in this legal field for more than a decade, I can offer some sage advice with these scenarios. It’s very important that couples or a single intended parent work with an experienced attorney who understands the international market as there are things you need to tell your client.
For example, bringing home a baby through surrogacy from the states is different for France, Spain and China. Every country is different and how they handle it, so having an adept attorney on your side makes all the difference in the world.
Likewise, the recent ruling in France regarding surrogacy also shows changes ahead. Published by the AFP, in a June 27 article entitled, “France accepts EU rights ruling on surrogacy children,” things are becoming more progressive.
The author wrote that France, “would not dispute a ruling by Europe’s top rights court forcing it to legally recognise children born to surrogates, a practice that is illegal in the country. Authorities in France had refused to register three children born to surrogates in the United States as the couples’ legal offspring, a crucial move as it would secure them nationality and full inheritance rights.” The article went on to say, “But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday that this denial by French authorities ran contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights.”
As controversy swirls regarding surrogacy, one thing is undeniable: When all goes smoothly with surrogacy, an insurmountable amount of joy occurs when a newborn baby is in the arms of loving parents.