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Fraudster jailed for surrogate scam
A surrogate mother who conned £15,000 from desperate couples by pretending to carry their babies has been jailed for three years and four months.
Louise Pollard, 28, of Plymouth, Devon, pretended to inseminate herself before sharing the joyful news she was expecting on three occasions.
Pollard then began "milking" the two couples for thousands of pounds, lying that she had suffered a car crash and had been forced to move house, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Within days of the couples demanding proof of the pregnancy, the former personal assistant pretended she had suffered a miscarriage - leaving them "heartbroken".
In 2010, Pollard alleged she was pregnant with the grandchild of Osama bin Laden, following an arrangement with his son Omar bin Laden.
She later said she had suffered a miscarriage - though police now suspect the bin Ladens, along with other couples, could have been victims of Pollard's scams.
Judge Graham Cottle jailed Pollard, who admitted fraud by false representation relating to faked pregnancies in March, May and November 2012, to three years and four months.
"This is not a case about financial loss, it is a case of two desperate couples being completely taken in by you and your lies," the judge said.
"Of course they lost money but they have lost a great deal more than that, they have ended up heartbroken."
Judge Cottle described Pollard's actions as "deliberate, sustained, callous acts" that had left both families devastated.
The court heard Pollard advertised her services as a surrogate mother on various websites, through which she met 20 prospective couples.
She had two successful surrogacies, a girl in 2007 and a boy in 2009, to one couple before arranging to carry a child for the bin Ladens in 2010.
The following year, Pollard was contacted by childless couple Josephine and Keith Barnett, who had been trying for a baby for 12 years.
In January 2012, the couple agreed to pay Pollard £20,000 to act as their surrogate and travelled to her home in Bristol on February 22 to carry out the artificial insemination.
Prosecuting, Rosaleen Collins said: "There followed an agonising and fairly lengthy series of events designed to milk the couple, taking advantage of their desperate wish to have a child and preying on their good nature and their emotional ties to the event itself."
Pollard insisted on performing the procedure privately in a bedroom, before being paid £1,000 for doing so. On March 10, she announced she was pregnant - demanding a further £2,600 as agreed from the couple.
Weeks later, Pollard claimed she was suffering cramps and bleeding and broke the news she had suffered a miscarriage on March 31. The concerned couple continued to support her financially.
"They were already so emotionally and financially attached to this arrangement that they were easily manipulated," Ms Collins said.
In May, Pollard travelled to their home to artificially inseminate herself and announced she was pregnant on May 27, collecting a further £2,700 and demanding further sums in the month that followed.
"As far as they were concerned, she was pregnant with their child and they had to look after her and take care of her," Ms Collins said. "All of this was a sham."
On July 2, Mrs Barnett asked to see a photograph of Pollard's 11-week scan. Two days later, Pollard claimed she had been involved in a serious car accident and had lost the baby.
The Barnetts lost contact with Pollard after paying her a total of £10,185 but reported her to police in February 2013, when she offered them another child.
Pollard lined up her next victims in September 2012, when she agreed to act as a surrogate for Winston and Debra Kaba, for £15,000.
The couple, who were desperate for a second child, drew up a contract with Pollard and paid her £1,000 after she signed it. In late October, she pretended to inseminate herself at their home.
On November 13, Pollard told the Kabas she was pregnant. Their contract stipulated proof of pregnancy had to be provided through a letter from Pollard's GP.
Pollard faked a letter confirming her pregnancy, which was revealed as a forgery when Mr Kaba contacted the surgery for verification of its authenticity.
In December, after meeting with doctors about the letter, Pollard told the Kabas, who paid her around £5,000, she had miscarried their child.
Mrs Barnett, in a victim impact statement read to the court, said the ordeal had left her requiring treatment and medication for depression.
"She believes that the defendant preyed on their desperate wish to have children and now they will never have that chance," Ms Collins said.
Mr Kaba, in a separate statement, said his family were "over the moon and overjoyed with happiness" when Pollard claimed to be pregnant.
"It is incomprehensible to them that someone would lie and be so cruel about something so sensitive and so precious," Ms Collins added.
Representing Pollard, who wept as she was jailed, Jason Taylor said his client was "remorseful" for her actions.
"She is somebody who has done something she is thoroughly ashamed of," Mr Taylor said. " She will have to live with the consequences for the rest of her life."
Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Mark Gilbert of Avon and Somerset Police appealed for other potential victims to come forward.
"We would like to hear from anyone who feels they have been directly affected by Louise Pollard, as we are still not sure how many couples have put their faith in her, only to be duped in similar circumstances," he said.
Mr Gilbert said he believed the bin Ladens could have been victims of Pollard's fraud.