Former surrogacy services owner faces felony charges
She was cast as the face of an industry pregnant with possibility — with dozens of local and international clients streaming to Portland for the surrogacy services she described as "so rewarding and fulfilling."
Now, Jeri Lynn Chambers is facing felony charges for allegedly taking a different sort of reward.
The 40-year-old Sherwood resident is charged with five counts of first-degree theft for reportedly stealing thousands of dollars from a Seattle man in 2015 and 2016, according to a secret indictment filed in Washington County Court on May 30.
Court records show the alleged victim, David Jonathan Trovato Wright, and his husband, Jason Wright, paid Chambers' company at least $25,000 for facilitating the surrogacy of their two children, a boy and a girl likely born in September 2016.
Chambers — who has served as a "gestational carrier" herself at least four times — promised to use the money to reimburse the surrogate mother for expenses relating to the in vitro fertilization, pregnancy and delivery, according to Oregon Department of Justice records.
In a 2016 settlement with the DOJ, Chambers had admitted to using the money for personal expenses. She agreed to reimburse customers living in Washington state, Salem, Los Angeles, Tigard, Bend and Singapore for a total of $173,000.
If she failed to live up to her end of the bargain, the DOJ vowed to seek another $25,000 in civil penalties.
The Greatest Gift Surrogacy Center NW essentially was shuttered by the July 2016 settlement, so it's unclear exactly why prosecutors are now pursuing new criminal charges against Chambers. Chambers did not immediately respond to an email with interview questions. But a comparison of bankruptcy proceedings, divorce filings and bounced checks with the front-page profile published in this newspaper in 2012 indicates how far a once-prominent businesswoman has fallen.
Chambers, then 34, claimed she had 23 clients coming from outside the United States that year.
"Our surrogates are a lot healthier than California's," she told the Tribune. "We get a lot of natural surrogates. They're not hippies, but everything is organic and everything is natural."
Chambers told the DOJ her only assets were two used cars and half-equity in her Sherwood home on Southwest Ladyfern Drive, which was equivalent to about $80,000. Her marriage in 1999 to Jeffrey Chambers, which produced three children, was dissolved in January of last year.