Egg donors say they were scammed by Boise fertility company

by jeeg 7. February 2011 23:45

A Boise woman has been indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple charges of defrauding egg donors, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis, Missouri.

Janae Helgerson, 31, was arrested in Idaho Thursday.  She appeared in federal court in Boise on Friday and was released under the condition she attend her future court appointments.

Helgerson owned and operated Mid-West Egg Donation, a company registered in Boise, to match couples seeking to conceive a baby with women who were willing to donate eggs to these couples. 

'Helgerson devised a scheme'

According to federal court documents, prospective clients paid a fee for its services and donors were supposed to be paid compensation of at least $4,000. 

Mid-West Egg represented a number of clients to obtain eggs from donors and accepted payments from those clients to cover both its agency fee, compensation for the donor, and other expenses including travel expenses incurred by donors. 

Many donors were in the St. Louis area and elsewhere. The indictment alleges that between 2006 and 2010, Helgerson agreed with client donors to pay them between $4,000 and $5,000.  However, she failed to pay them and lied to investigators when questioned about the non-payments.  The documents say Helgerson kept at least $10,000 for herself.

Egg donors: 'Why haven't I gotten paid?'

Amber Puckett from Kirkwood, Missouri first spotted Mid-West Egg Donation online, on Craigslist.  She wanted to donate eggs to get money and help a couple have a baby.  She says she was contracted, and promised $5,000 dollars for a donation, which she made in 2009.
"Everything went pretty smoothly. I got emails prompting me what I needed to do next.  I would receive return phone calls, and communication was good.  I never once thought twice about the whole process. All communication pretty much stopped after my donation in mid-July," Amber Puckett said.
Angela Polete from Saint Louis Missouri had a similar experience that same year.  She went through all the same steps, from frequent consultations and evaluations to doctors appointments.
"I was supposed to get paid six weeks after the donation took place.  Six weeks later, after the donation took place, it came and went.  I started questioning them, you know what's wrong?  Why haven't I gotten paid?" Angela Polete said.
Both Puckett and Polete say they've never been paid.  "Not a dime.  They owe me $7,500." Polete said.

'I don't even care about the money anymore'

Both donors say their eggs were given to a couple.  Polete says the couple she donated to had twins last year.  Puckett never met the couple she donated to, but says she was told her eggs were donated.

"I was reassured the couple actually received the eggs. I'm at least grateful that they got what they were looking for.  But very disappointed that I was promised something they probably knew I was never going to get," Puckett said.
Polete says she doesn't think the odds of getting her money are very good, but she's happy to know the case is going before the court.

"I don't even care about the money anymore.  I'm just more focused on her not being allowed to do this to anyone else." Polete said. "I don't see how somebody can be so incredibly selfish when it comes to helping people create families.  I don't see how anybody can be so selfish."

Puckett says she's also happy the case is moving forward.  Her biggest hope is that this does not happen to anyone else.

"I feel sorry for her, but I don't think it's right to lead someone on to believe that they're contracted for a certain amount of money and go through this lengthy process that's not easy, and with no intention of ever paying them.  You don't do that to anyone, that's not right."

Helgerson to appear in Missouri court

Helgerson was indicted on three felony counts of wire fraud and three felony counts of making false statements.

If convicted, Helgerson faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each count of wire fraud, and 10 years in prison and the sames fines for each count of making false statements.

Helgerson must next appear in court on February 17 in a St. Louis federal court.

Jamie Grey, KTVB


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