A TAIN woman who conned a couple into believing she was carrying their child as a surrogate mum has been jailed for two years today.
Samantha Brown, who is already serving a jail sentence for shooting a woman in the face with an air rifle, deceived the couple from north east England and persuaded them to hand over £8000 over a ten months period.
She admitted fraud and inducing the couple to pay £8,307 in fake expenses over a 10 month period between June 25, 2013, and April 20, 2014.
Inverness Sheriff Court heard last month that the 25 year old then contacted the couple near the time the baby was due and told them she had been in a serious car crash.
To convince them she sent a picture of a dead child.
Sentence had been deferred for reports until today when Brown appeared for sentence at the same court.
Roderick Urquhart, depute fiscal had told Sheriff Margaret Neilson last month that Brown had formerly lived in Birmingham before moving to the north of Scotland and she had borderline personality disorder and dyslexia.
A case against Brown’s former partner and co-accused was dropped due to insufficiency of evidence.
Mr Urquhart said her partner was 19 years her senior and it was difficult to believe Brown conceived and perpetrated the fraud alone.
The couple from England who were deceived, Benita and Mark Cutter, married about four years ago.
Mrs Cutter had adopted two children during an earlier marriage as she was unable to conceive.
The couple advertised on the internet for a surrogate and Brown offered her services.
They stayed at Brown’s address from July 28 to 31 in 2013 during which Mark Cutter provided daily samples of his semen.
Brown and her partner then entered a bedroom and claimed to be attempting to artificially inseminate Brown.
“As the pregnancy progressed the Cutters were sent what purported to be scan images of the unborn child and told of Brown’s visits to ante-natal classes.”
In April 2014 the Cutters received text messages stating Brown had been in a car crash and they were later sent a photo of what they were told was their dead son.
Mr Urquhart said: “The financial loss to the Cutters paled almost into insignificance compared with the heartbreak, anguish and despair they suffered when they realised not only that they were not going to become parents but they had been victims of a calculated and callous fraud.”
In mitigation today, Alison Foggo, solicitor said in October last year Brown was jailed for assault and had a release date in February 2017.
Ms Foggo agreed with the fiscal that the money involved was nothing compared to the callous nature of the fraud.
But she said there were undoubtedly alarm bells ringing when Brown and her accomplice met the Cutters in July 2013.
“Had the victims not been blinded by their own desire for children there may have been an opportunity for them to realise they were being hoodwinked.
“My client accepts this was a callous fraud. The Crown accepts Samantha Brown was only one of two people involved in the fraud."
Ms Foggo said Brown’s position was that it was her co-accused who conceived the plan and was an essential part of its execution and shared in the financial rewards.
“It’s clear the financial losses are unlikely to be repaid.
“That said the case has generated a great deal of press interest and it’s not clear if the victims have received money.
“There may be a silver lining that they have seen some financial recompense.”
Ms Foggo said that since the case appeared in the press Brown had been bullied, harrassed and harangued in prison.
Jailing her for two years which will run consecutive to her current sentence, Sheriff Neilson told Brown: “You have pleaded guilty to a very serious charge. Clearly what made this fraud particularly despicable is the callous, calculating and cynical manner in which it was carried out over a ten months’ period.
“The only thing that can be said in your favour is that it is accepted by the Crown that you did not carry out this fraud singlehandedly and would not have been able to plan and execute such a fraud on your own although you are the only person who has been prosecuted for it.”
After sentencing, Detective Inspector Scott Macdonald of Police Scotland said: "We acknowledge the custodial sentence handed to Samantha Brown today, following her trial of inconceivable deception against a couple who felt they could trust her.
“Her selfish and calculated actions put the couple through an emotional rollercoaster; they are to be praised for having the courage to contact police, allowing a thorough investigation to take place and Brown to be brought to justice for her appalling actions.
"Cases like these are fortunately rare but are nonetheless extremely distressing for the families involved and unsettling for the wider community, so we hope today’s sentence brings a degree of comfort and closure. Police Scotland will continue to robustly investigate all reports of fraud and would encourage anyone with concerns to contact 101 at the earliest opportunity."