This sentencing, while welcome news to many, in no way remedies the damage that was wrought by Tonya Collins. That harm was irreparable, the damage caused largely indiscernible and no prison sentence will ever make her victims whole again.
This case has struck a personal chord with me since early 2009 when the first victims approached me about irregularities at SurroGenesis. I was blessed to get to know many of the victims in the course of our representation. Several have become dear friends. I know the pain they felt. It was palpable. Not at the loss of their money, but rather the realization that they will likely never get the chance to become parents. All because of the depraved behavior of Tonya Collins.
I recognize that under our criminal justice system, yesterday’s sentence was a watershed moment in our industry as it represented the stiffest sentence ever handed down in a surrogacy scandal. But before we pat ourselves on the back and consider that justice has been served, we need to step back and remember that many of the victims will never get to see their baby take its first step, hear their toddler utter the words “mommy” or “daddy”, get a chance to walk their young adult down the aisle or have the unadulterated joy of being grandparents. The money that was embezzled was tangential, even superficial to the real story. Instead, it was merely a means to an end. It represented the chance to have a child. And sadly that is the untold story that will haunt these clients and friends forever.
No matter how much time Tonya Collins serves in prison, many of our clients and now my friends, have forever lost their chance at becoming parents. Tonya Collins did not just steal money. She stole the dreams of decent, caring and trusting people who had already been victimized by being unable to have a child without the help of an egg donor or surrogate. She preyed upon the most vulnerable, the most in need and the most hopeful.
So yes, our imperfect criminal justice system functioned as designed yesterday. Perhaps the sentencing will be a clarion call to the industry and will serve to deter similar malevolent conduct in the future. That would be a worthy legacy to this heinous scandal, I guess.
Yet I cannot feel good about the outcome. I cannot help but feel bad for Tonya Colllins’ young children who will be losing their mother for years. But at least Tonya Collins got to hold her children. One day, relatively soon, Tonya Collins will be reunited with her family. The cruel irony, just twenty-four hours after Mother’s Day, is that while Collins will be able to continue to enjoy this holiday with her children, many of her victims will never get that chance. And no amount of jail time or statements of remorse can change that.