THE MOTHER OF ALL SCAMS

02.23.15 10:18 AM ET

She Got Rich Stealing Moms’ Dreams

Forty families, desperate for kids, paid Allison Layton tens of thousands each for the promise of parenthood. But the babies never came.

Hoan Nguyen dreamed of becoming a mom. But she had fertility issues, and so Nguyen began scouting for a surrogate from her Arizona home. She landed on a website called Miracles and Miracles Surrogacy. Nguyen only found out later that it was a fraudulent business run by a conniving mom.

It was May 2011 and the hopeful parent thought she found the perfect surrogate named “Amy.” A phone conversation with the Miracles Inc. owner had Nguyen acting fast because “Amy,” she was told, was “in high demand.” Nguyen sent two payments totaling $19,500 and signed some papers to make it official. But Hoan Nguyen was baited and bilked. There was no “Amy” and the money she signed off to deliver a baby someday was as good as gone.

For four years, Allison Layton, 38, took Nguyen and more than 40 other would-be moms and dads for their hard earned money to fund her lux lifestyle and finance a second wedding in Idaho. She pleaded guilty on Thursday in a federal court in Los Angeles to heartlessly snatching away so many dreams from “intended parents”—all seeking surrogacy or egg donations to the tune of more than $300,000.

“She’s getting exactly what she deserves,” one close relative of Layton’s told The Daily Beast on the decision that could send Layton to prison for up to 20 years. “She lied and cheated, and she’s just in my opinion one of the coldest people.”

The relative said Layton’s underhanded tactics in the surrogacy business scared away her ex-husband, who opened it with her.

“When they separated he had 21 percent of the business,” the relative told The Daily Beast. “He didn’t want anything to do with it. He said, ‘Get me out of it.’ And she screwed him out of a little bit of money."

Egg donor fraud is becoming unnervingly common. There are lawyers who dedicate their practice fighting back and egg donor watchdog blogs arming clients with ways to sniff out oily actors.

Layton and her husband were running the business but also raising two kids who are now teenagers. When news splashed last week of their mom’s felonious baby business it was crushing.

“Their 14-year-old son heard about it at school,” the relative said. “Before then he’d been sheltered from it. But he knows now and it’s pretty disturbing to him.”

The Miracles Egg Donation Inc. website remains active. The sepia-hued images featuring a young girl smiling proudly or a newborn clutching a mother’s fingers with the cursive written “intended parent” overlayed on it hits the tender notes. Ring the working phone number and a voice mail prompt assures that calls will be returned.

Online, Layton’s Miracles Egg Donation brags about its “worldwide” facilities,  having just launched in Australia and Europe.

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But federal sources confirmed that Layton global infrastructure was actually a small-time DIY operation run out of her Glendora, California, living room. “She ran the business out of her home,” the law enforcement source confirmed.

Miracles Inc. claimed to act as a sort of one-stop-shop to take care of the logistics when it comes to complicated conceiving methods including "matching; screening; and coordination for all medical, psychological, legal and financial aspects related to the donation and surrogacy process.”

The promises on the website are laid on thick. “Often, the couples or individuals have come to us after painful and difficult infertility journeys. Our goal is to provide them with hope in that they may fulfill their dreams and have children of their own.”

There are testimonials on the Miracles Inc. site, too. But they’re all suspiciously anonymous.

Still, each quoted somebody claiming to have been blessed with a miracle from Miracles Inc. “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked him…Samuel 1:27,” reads one.

“If we are blessed with another miracle child, thank you for all you have done,” some grateful no-name parent allegedly gushes.

Another tearjerker comes across as pure saccharine: “I was so touched by the donors letter, that I carried it with me to the transfer and have carried it ever since. I’m brought to tears every time I think of what she has done for me and how sincerely she cares. I am happy to say I am pregnant and we have THREE heart beats!”

A Miracles Inc. Q and A about medical costs now seems rich. “Who will pay for the medical costs?” Answer: “All costs are the responsibility of the recipients, unless the donor violates the contract.” No mention of what happens if Miracles Inc. or its owner cashes the fat check and then cuts loose.

And the checks are fat, indeed. An egg donor’s compensation starts at $5,000, but Miracles tacks on a $6,500 “Inclusive Agency Fee.”

Surrogate compensation comes to $25,000. The tagline attached to it reads like spite given the hindsight of Allison Layton’s conviction. “The commitment you and your family to this journey is a sacrifice. Hopefully, the compensation below will help your family have a special gift in your lives.”

Ultimately, Layton’s business, according to court papers, was a surrogate sham. In every way it was defrauding vulnerable customers who ranged from eager egg donors, surrogates, recipients, and intended parents. Once the money landed in Layton’s account, it was virtually radio silence.

Hoan Nguyen was out $19,500 and was made a sucker. She trusted Layton with her money and surrendered to the process for the chance to conceive a child. “Amy” turned out to be a fictional surrogate concocted by Layton. She never made it to any of the medical appointments. When Nguyen attempted to reach “Amy” herself, she failed.

Then in June of 2011, Nguyen requested a refund. Layton promised to return the $19,500; even creating an elaborate email that confirmed the payment was sent. But in reality, Nguyen’s money was used to “pay off other vulnerable prospective parents that [Layton] had defrauded,” the court papers said.

In reality, Layton was using the money to maintain her lavish lifestyle, a law enforcement source said. Not only did she shower herself with valuables, including jewelry purchases. She also threw a fairytale wedding when she walked down the aisle to start a new life in Idaho, the source confirmed.

Layton, who started a second family and is raising two other children with her second husband in Star, Idaho, remains free. She must return to court in a few months for sentencing. Whether she gets prison time makes no difference because, according to her relative, Layton’s already ruined her life and so many around her.

“She had a good business, and if she ran it properly, she could have made money and made a lot of people happy.”

But Layton chose otherwise. And that’s left her family and so many potential parents around the country with broken hearts. “It all boils down to morals,” the relative said. “If you cheat people, you take advantage of so many more.”