Houston families demand answers over missing surrogacy funds

Parents continuing their quest for children through surrogacy are pressing for information from Dominique Side over the disappearance of funds, affecting some at crucial times in the surrogacy process. Side has yet to address the issue, sparking legal uncertainty for many families.

FOX 26 spoke with an attorney to help explain the legal options available to the affected families.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Families allege missing funds in Houston surrogacy escrow account scandal

According to Andrew Bluebond, managing attorney at Bluebond Law, "Admittedly, it is a rough road to hoe. We have found that the money that was held by SEAM is not in the accounts that it is supposed to be," Bluebond said.

Parents intending to use surrogacy services placed significant sums into SEAM's escrow, which Side owns, to manage expenses relating to their surrogates. Bluebond suspects that rather than keeping the money in individual accounts, it appears the funds were pooled into a single account.

Concerns were further highlighted when it was found that the management's method for tracking funds was seemingly via a Google Docs spreadsheet, without a tangible connection to bank accounts. 

Intended parent Katie Lynch said, "There's no clarity on the structure; you get a glimpse of your account through the SEAM website, but it's not actually linked to a real bank account that's visible."

Lynch spent five years trying to have a child. In her attempts, she had three embryos transferred, but suffered two miscarriages. The loss took an emotional and physical toll and Lynch and her husband decided it was best to try a surrogate, and lucky for the couple, a family friend offered to help, saving them thousands of dollars. 

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Katie & John Lynch, Vicky Ursi

The ongoing situation also complicates prospective plans for parents, as Side has neither communicated with her clients nor responded to FOX 26 inquiries for an interview.

Bluebond expressed urgency in resolving the matter, "Ms. Side not coming forward is a major challenge to unravel in this. If she were to come forward, and even give us access and be clear on where the money is and what accounts are at issue, we can make a lot of progress on unraveling this."

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The situation has been notably stressful for Kelly and Daniel Palladino. After going through two miscarriages due to Kelly's Lupus autoimmune disease, surrogacy was their only option, and they currently have more than $60,000 in their escrow account with SEAM.

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Kelly & Daniel Palladino

The Palladino's are elated to find out their surrogate is pregnant. Kelly Palladino expressed her anguish, "She didn’t just take this money, she stole an important week from me and to leave us without anything, we worked hard for this. She [Side] has hurt me, she has hurt my husband, she has hurt a ton of families and I just wish for her to do the right thing," Palladino said.

Intended parents have filed a report with Houston Police, the FBI, and the Texas Attorney General's Office.