COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina woman accused of promising couples she would be their surrogate mother has been charged with bilking at least six people out of $14,000, police said Thursday.
Jessica O'Donnell, 28, used the Internet to lure couples desperate to have children, prosecutors said. She was charged with obtaining money under false pretenses and was being held Thursday on $140,000 bail.
According to Greenwood County sheriff's investigators, O'Donnell told people to send sperm in a plastic cup and use ice packs and a cooler to preserve the fluids. She said she would then have a friend who is a nurse inseminate her.
Police found several coolers at O'Donnell's home in the small town of Hodges, about 80 miles northwest of Columbia.
O'Donnell's husband, Daniel, 28, also has been charged with obtaining money under false pretenses, said Maj. John Murray of the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office. He was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
Murray said he doesn't think the O'Donnells have hired an attorney. A woman who answered the telephone at the couple's home hung up when asked about Jessica O'Donnell. A subsequent message was not returned.
According to police reports, victims of the scam were from Tennessee, New York, Alabama, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, but their names were not released. They told investigators they connected with O'Donnell through an Internet site.
An Internet blog also was created to warn others about O'Donnell.
O'Donnell claims she is 15 weeks pregnant with her husband's child, Murray said. The couple has a 1-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, who are living with Jessica O'Donnell's parents in Hodges, Murray said.
Investigators are awaiting test results to determine whether she actually is pregnant.