A Selma woman who bilked money from couples attempting to find surrogates through her business, Baby Steps Egg Donation, LLC, has been sentenced to prison.
Jennifer Soronen pled guilty Tuesday in Johnston County Superior Court to 11 counts of conversion by bailee. Afterwards, Judge Reuben Young sentenced Soronen to a minimum of 48 months to a maximum of 114 months in prison. Upon her release she must remain on probation for 10 years and repay $183,387.14 in restitution to her victims.
Soronen, 42, was originally indicted by a Grand Jury in May 2014.
The SBI said she took money from the trust fund of her business that her clients had paid to cover the needs of surrogate carriers like trips to see the doctor.
One couple told WRAL last year they paid $14,000 in initial costs to Baby Steps Egg Donation, LLC but never heard back from Soronen about a carrier.
The SBI launched their investigation in December 2013 after receiving complaints from multiple counties from couples trying to start families.
On a website for her business, WRAL reported that 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 court appearance last year, her attorney said Soronen was a single mom caring for four children of her own.
According to prosecutors, instead of using the money to help victims achieve their dream of having children, Soronen stole the money and used it for personal services including breast augmentation, hair and nail treatments.
District Attorney Susan Doyle said she was satisfied with the sentence imposed. “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. 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.”
Assistant District Attorneys Paul Jackson and Kelly Sandling prosecuted the case.