Families allege missing funds in Houston surrogacy escrow account scandal

Several families are demanding answers from a Houston woman who owns an escrow account for intended parents, with many having thousands of dollars invested, and now their money is nowhere to be found.

FOX 26 spoke with impacted families across the country and in Houston. Families reported they have as much as $60,000 in the escrow account, while others have only $12,000. The common concern among them is the lack of response from the Surrogacy Escrow Account Management (SEAM) and their demand for answers from the owner, Dominique Side.

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"We’re not rich. Most people going through surrogacy right now are not. They’re working multiple jobs to make this happen and now this money may be gone, and it’s terrifying," said intended parent AnnaMaria Gallozzi.

Gallozi and her family live in Austin and told FOX 26 this is her second time working with SEAM. The first time there was little to no issues. But this time around, it's been frustrating.

"It’s devastating, it’s terrifying, you start to feel even more hopeless than you did. A lot of people going through this has had fertility struggles for years, and this was their last chance to be a parent," Gallozzi said.

FOX 26 has communicated with victims from Iowa, California, Austin, Houston, and in Europe. After assessing adoption and IVF, Chris Kettmann from California and his wife opted for surrogacy as their best chance to become parents. 

"We just want to know what’s going on. We need a statement that’s not a general statement," Kettmann said echoing the sentiments of many intended parents involved.

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Credit: Chris Kettmann

Side emailed clients revealing that operations have been put on hold due to legal actions but is unable to give more details. Not only are intended families in limbo, but surrogates are as well. 

"She knows what she’s doing. She knows it’s wrong. She knows she’s messing with a lot of people who don’t deserve it, they’ve already been through so much to get to this point," said surrogate Haley Rexroat, who lives in Iowa.

Side, who claims to be a Houston-based entrepreneur with several businesses, including a career as a musical artist, showed off foreign cars and lavish vacations on her then-public social media profiles. This has left several families wondering if that's where their money has ended up.

For one Houston family, dealing with the escrow account issues has interrupted a joyous time, as they're going through the surrogacy route for the second time after their first child passed away at seven months. Their second child was born last Friday. 

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Intended parent Justin Bennett shared, "We’re at an all-time high right now and then to kind of have to deal with this. It’s interrupting this beautiful time with our family, and it’s very disappointing."

FOX 26 found civil court actions against SEAM from 2022 for not paying property taxes. Court documents revealed Side never showed up for court once served. The county ordered the land sold at an auction. Court documents also showed that Side had filed for bankruptcy in 2001. 

FOX 26 reached out to Side through email, social media, and by phone since last Thursday and has not received a response in time for this report.