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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fertility Hustler Gets Off Easy for Scamming Childless Couples

Allison Layton stole from over 40 would-be moms and dads with her surrogacy Ponzi scheme—and she danced out of court with an insanely light sentence.
Julie Cameron walked slowly to the lectern in the basement of the Los Angeles federal courtroom hugging a baby doll nestled in a blanket. “This is all that we have,” she said through tears.

The doll was supposed to be for their daughter, Anna.

But Anna was never conceived. And the cradle robber sat three feet away, staring up at the childless woman and her broken husband with steely eyes.

Allison Layton managed to find time in her rockstar schedule in Star, Idaho, to be seated at her own sentencing hearing on Monday morning in California.

Sources close to the minted felon told The Daily Beast that Layton, who had been convicted in February of federal wire fraud charges for running away with funds from over 40 would-be moms and dads, had been allegedly boasting in private that she would get off virtually scot-free.

Layton took a plea deal in which the now-38-year-old mother (an egg donor herself to possibly a dozen or more domestic and foreign couples) was found guilty of concocting a Ponzi scheme where she duped scores of hopeful parents like the Camerons out of their nest eggs for years in order to bankroll her champagne lifestyle.

Judge George H. Wu heard pleas from crushed, penniless victims urging him to lock Layton away for as long as 20 years. The judge announced that he’d also read Layton’s defender request that, as a first-time offender, she’d simply do community service and be on probation for a few years.

Claiming to be the main caregiver to three children —ages 14, 4, and 2 (her eldest daughters have since moved out on their own)—she said her absence would be catastrophic to her family. “If she were not there, things would clearly fall apart,” her lawyer said in the objections filed to the presentence report and sentencing memorandum.
Her federal public defender tried to win over the judge by suggesting that Layton was filled with remorse and experienced a “fall from grace.” She said Layton’s already been paying back the stolen funds (a claim that was heavily contested by the federal prosecutor), and that probation was a considerable form of punishment.

Moreover, documents filed by her lawyer a week prior had painted Layton as a victim several times over.

As a young girl from Orlando, Florida, Layton was constantly relocating because her dad was a serial skirt chaser, the court documents claimed.

Layton was said she was sexually attacked by a next-door neighbor as a toddler and she later accused her first husband of having a terrible temper and even physically abusing her. (A source close to the family alleged to The Daily Beast that Layton’s accusations about spousal abuse surfaced after she was caught by the feds.) At 26 years old and still married, she took up egg donation as a way “to keep things afloat.” Before she opened Miracles, her Ponzi scheme egg donation center, Layton was serving chow at Applebee's and going door-to-door for Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Miracles started taking off. But her lawyer said it was the founder’s poor bookkeeping, not her lux lifestyle, that did her in.

The objections to the presentencing report suggest Layton was “ill-equipped at running these services at this scale, and started making mistakes, failing to maintain proper bookkeeping and commingling funds.” So all the money swiped and spent on her second wedding reception (the papers state she yet again donated her own eggs to fund it) and an Instagram photo—acquired by The Daily Beast—of fancy Tiffany boxes stacked for Christmas were merely a result of an error-prone exec who was over her head.

Meanwhile, not long after Layton and her husband welcomed a daughter into their family, her oldest daughter was supposedly misdiagnosed with a brain tumor, the court papers say. “Although the diagnosis was wrong and [sic] ultimately recovered from meningitis, the family was thrown into a constant state of stress for the next year.”

In her objections to the presentence and sentencing memorandum, Layton’s lawyers said she was determined to right her wrong. “Although she knows that repaying the money will not heal the wounds, she is committed to continuing to pay full restitution, which she has been making since the inception of this case.”

The judge ultimately was unswayed and ruled that Layton be sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.

While she must return to court in October to deal with a trial over restitution for what amounts to “at least $250,000,” the egg thief trotted out of court on Monday morning beaming and flanked by her second husband and friends. Now facing time in the big house, Layton remained mum.

According to the charges, Miracles Egg Donation served as a bargain-basement one-stop surrogacy and egg-donation shop (for some, their last stop). But it promised to cover all of the logistics when it came to complicated conceiving methods.

Layton advertised on her Miracles site (which has since been taken down) that the business handled “matching; screening; and coordination for all medical, psychological, legal and financial aspects related to the donation and surrogacy process.”

The sepia-hued site showcased an array of testimonials that The Daily Beast archived. One nameless and dateless woman seems to shower Layton with adoration. “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 heartbeats!”

And if you were to consider donation—well, Layton was in fact an egg donor herself. When asked in 2004 about the questionable practice of donating her eggs to Australian parents (laws there now forbid such practices) to collect a $10,000-a-pop payday, Layton seemed resolved.

Back in 2004 the then-29-year-old Layton, referred to by her first married surname Jarvie, told The Sunday Mail how she was just a messenger. “The mum is the one that gives life to the child ... she gives the blood, the oxygen and the food... I’m just the DNA.”

As a mother of three, having another child at that time wasn’t in the cards. So she believed she should be charitable. “I am not using my eggs. I might as well give them to someone who can...I don’t feel I am doing it for the money. If I can help someone else it’s an honour."

In court, during the sentencing, the guilty stork-slayer stood up. Her lawyer’s hand caressed her back as Layton unfolded a typed statement that she read before Judge Wu and a few victims—three of whom had only moments ago poured their hearts out about being looted by Layton.

“Every day I wish I could wake up and go back in time to fix everything that was taken from each person that was hurt,” she read.

She went on to claim how her selfishness caused suffering to many people and “was a result of my downfall.”

Layton cracked and had to dab her eyes with a tissue when she talked about how hard this has been to turn her life around. Besides being “arrogant” and “blind,” she said that she was coping and hoping to change her ghoulish ways. “My failures have taught me a lot of lessons about myself. As a result of these actions it has helped me to start to grow.” She broke for a second to dry her tears. “I know I have a lot more to do to be the person I want to be… This is not who I thought I was. But I am determined to become someone my children can rely on.”

She ended her three-minute statement by saying, “I am deeply regretful and sorry every day.”

But is she really sorry?

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Layton was found culpable of shaking down people from as far back as 2008 and up until after she was caught, according to court papers.

While authorities made it explicit that Layton must refrain from playing god with other parents and their money—she kept doing it. “Upon her pretrial release on Jan. 8,” Layton “continued to operate Miracles at least as late as February 2015,” the government’s sentencing position, filed on September 17, read. Layton was even working with an attorney brokering egg donation services and she “led him to believe that she was still working with clients and involved with the company.”

While some of the parental hopefuls may be too ashamed to come forward or too financially strapped to sue Layton, it’s possible more victims were spurned, the prosecutor said. “The government … is not aware of how many other clients Miracles may have had during this period,” the sentencing document said.

What’s more, during that time, Layton was posting pics of herself having a grand time in Idaho.

The defeated diva has since quit selling the gift of life to couples and has instead been slaving away at a hair salon. According to her objections to the presentence report and sentencing memorandum filed a week ago, Layton portrayed herself as working menial jobs for the past seven months as an assistant manager at an Idaho beauty salon, “operating the cash register, cleaning the facilities and doing laundry.”

Her lawyers claim Layton has been living a “frugal” lifestyle, “rarely purchasing anything on credit, buying clothes only for the children, rarely eating out and have ceased common luxuries such as cable television and gym memberships.”

But sources tell The Daily Beast she’s still allegedly been driving a Cadillac Escalade and her husband, Kevin, has supposedly been tooling around on a brand new Harley-Davidson. And the couple is apparently keeping up their extracurriculars. In the name of altruism, Layton and her ex-firefighter husband, who now works at a water filtration facility, were in in full moto regalia attending the “Bikers For Boobies Ride” on March 29. “Just another day in paradise!” Layton commented under a pic revealing countless motorcycles readying to ride.

The two also shared a date night where they grabbed a movie and champagne, according to one Instagram post, where Layton remarked, “Beer.. Champs…champs…date night with the hubbs at the movie theater! #cheers #muchneeded.”

Outside court, when asked if the tears she was dabbing were real, one of her friends snarled, “You weren’t there.”

But Bethany Torres was.

Like the Camerons, she, too claims to have been baited and victimized by a charismatic Layton. But unlike the grieving couple, who were shaking uncontrollably when the sentence was handed down by the judge, Torres, 30, essentially was employed by Layton as a surrogate.

About five years ago the young mother posted on a message board her desire to give life to needy couples. “I wanted so badly to help a couple that couldn’t have children,” she told The Daily Beast.

Torres says Layton and her Miracles Egg Donation outfit—run out of her Glendora, California, garage—sought the young woman out.

The process to match Intended Parents, or “IPs,” with a surrogate can take months, Torres said. But at Miracles, Layton managed to expedite it to a month with a couple from Australia. “I was pregnant on the first try with twin boys by late November [2010].”

Layton was very hands-on with her preggers mom under her employ. She went to doctor’s appointments and she was also pregnant herself, Torres said. So the two were expecting together.

But whenever Torres brought up an issue or expressed concerns directly with the Intended Parents, she says she saw Layton’s dark side. “Allison had gotten very distant and angry and downright hostile toward me.” Miracles stopped paying Torres and while she was about to go under the knife to deliver by C-section, she was stunned to see Layton was front and center at the surgery with the Aussie tourists waiting in the corridor for their newborns. Layton then allegedly “encouraged them to take [the twin boys] from me right away,” Torres said.

Torres bravely told Layton and everybody filling the courtroom that Layton had been denigrating her in private all along. “I started to hear she said horrible things to them about me when I wasn’t around,” she said, pointing out how the parents were informed that Torres engaged in reckless behavior as a pregnant mother and had been supposedly seeding rumors online about Miracles. “She had lied to them,” she said. “Allison painted me as a horrible money-hungry girl who was trying to get as much money as possible instead of me just asking for what I was legally owed.”

Forced to undergo a hernia surgery “as a result of the [pregnancy]” and with well over $10,000 worth of medical bills piling up, Torres tried turning to Layton for payment for the surrogacy but says she was always given the runaround. “I received emails from Allison always alluding to extenuating circumstances.”

Layton would dodge the queries. She’d tell Torres the payments were already there in her bank account. Or that Miracles had relocated and had crippled her accounting.

Torres lost just about everything. Her marriage fell apart, and she spiraled into depression. “Financially I lost so much and the after-effects of Allison Layton and her schemes are still affecting me today four years later,” she said.

And then Layton added a little extra bonus. She sicced the IRS on the surrogate.

“Not only did she lie, steal and cheat me and so many others out of money we were legally owed, she drove a stake deeper by issuing 1099s on myself and other surrogates claiming she paid.”

Ultimately, Torres hoped the judge heard her when she pointed out that Layton has been able to continue her jet-setting lifestyle. “She made myself and my family suffer financially while she was buying designer shoes and handbags,” she said. “While she was finding new cars and a home with stolen money, she had another child of her own, while many couples who trusted her never will have that chance.”


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