Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Surrogacy Center Case Dismissed

Surrogacy Center Theft Case Dismissed

Birth broker for gays and singles was accused of stealing a client's $6,500

Stephanie Caballero
By Sam Wood

Theft charges were dismissed yesterday against the director of a former South Jersey agency that brokered surrogate child births.

Len Brooks, 37, ran the MidAtlantic Center for Surrogacy & Egg Donation, which listed a Cherry Hill post office box as its address.

Brooks had been accused of stealing $6,500 from an Evesham Township man who paid Brooks $24,500 to find a woman who would give birth to a child for him. Brooks failed to find a woman or provide a refund, the man said.

Brooks mailed $18,000 to Evesham police to give to the man. Brooks said the $6,500 was nonrefundable agency fees; prosecutors disagreed.

At a hearing yesterday, Brooks and a friend erupted in laughter when lawyer Donald Manno stepped from the judge's chambers to tell his client that the motion to dismiss the theft charges had been accepted.

State Superior Court Judge John A. Almeida took the bench a few minutes later. Almeida said the charges had been dismissed because of "exculpatory evidence" related to the contract.

The case could still be pursued in civil court, said First Assistant Prosecutor Raymond E. Milavsky.

"We had concerns with this case and this victim only," Milavsky said. "We have talked to the victim, and he understands."

At least 17 other people have contacted the prosecutor's office with complaints about Brooks' business dealings, a prosecutor's spokesman said.

According to Brooks' Web site, he manages surrogate arrangements for primarily single or gay clients in "Europe, Asia, Australia and South America."

Brooks, formerly of Sewell and Sicklerville, moved to Florida in 2005 and opened another agency, International Surrogacy Consultants. Through his lawyer, he declined yesterday to say where his newest agency is based.

Manno, who had contended the Evesham man had used the prosecutor's office as a collection agency, said Brooks had been unfairly targeted by many disappointed childless couples who had staked their hopes on Brooks' providing them with a child.

"You're probably aware of," Manno said. "There's an incredible amount of venom by disgruntled people looking for someone to blame for their misfortunes. He gets the brunt of it."

Manno said he and Brooks were considering filing a countersuit against the Evesham man for withholding documents, as well as suits against others for making false statements.

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