Farmer tells court how he was conned millions in surrogacy deal by fertility clinic

Winnie Warigia Maina during the hearing of the case where she is charged with obtaining Sh 2.9 million by pretending she was in a position to provide surrogacy services

A man has testified before court how he was duped by a fertility clinic in Nairobi to pay Sh 2.9 million to have a child through a surrogate that never was.

Dion William Van Aardt told Senior Principal Magistrate Kenneth Cheruiyot that he decided to have a child in 2017 and visited various websites looking for fertility agencies.

This is when he came across Winnie Warigia Maina’s clinic known as Family Fertility and Surrogacy Agency Limited who told him she would help him become a father.

Prior to him visiting the clinic, Van Aardt who is a farmer in Nyanyuki said he did some research and found that the agency is reputable as a number of clients had contacted it.

“I therefore got the courage to interview Winnie through sending an email and WhatsApp and later we agreed to meet in person,” Van Aardt testified.

He travelled to Nairobi where they met at the Aga khan Hospital on 12th January 2018 at the java cafe and later met with a doctor by the name Praful Patel from aga Khan at 2pm. 

He said that they met and had a contract between himself and the surrogate and another between himself and the agency.

Before signing the contract, the witness said he was informed by Dr Patel to go for a semen analysis to see if I was in a position to sire a child, which I did.

He was told to go to another clinic for the test as he was told it would be faster than waiting at Aga Khan.

Van Aardt testified that on 15th January 2018  Winnie called him and told him that she had received the results and they were not that good adding that she had discussed them with doctor Patel but he had said he would help him father a child.

He insisted on talking to doctor Patel and was reassured of what Winnie had told.

“From that point I felt I could trust Winnie and her agency and we started to formalize the process,” he added.

On 15 and 16th January, they exchanged the contracts and signed them on 17th January.

According to the complaint, he made a first payment of USD 4000 (apprx Sh 400,000) which was deposited through the Family Fertility and Surrogacy Clinic account at Commercial Bank of Africa and them paid the rest later. He told the court he paid a total of Sh 2.9 million as per the contract.

Winnie is charged with obtaining Sh 2.9 million by false pretenses. According to the charge sheet, she obtained the money from Van Aardt by falsely pretending that she was in a position to provide surrogacy services for him.

Van Aardt went on to testify that Winnie told him to go back to Aga Khan and give another semen sample. “She booked the appointment with doctor Shaheen Patel, the embryologist at the hospital,” he added.

He added that Dr Shaheen showed him the sample under a microscope and assured him they were healthy and would have no problem fertilizing.

The court heard that on 3rd May same year, Winnie told her the egg donor and surrogate were now ready for the procedure to begin. She called him multiple times that day to keep him abreast of the process and abreast of how the donated eggs were performing.

“On 15th May, we were able to confirm a successful pregnancy. I was very excited and started to prepare for fatherhood,” said the witness.

The witness went to testify that on 13th July 2018, he met Winnie with the surrogate at  Medanta hospital for a scan which confirmed a healthy growing baby.

He added that as the pregnancy continued to grow he started to purchase baby equipment and even found a woman to help me with the baby.

On 19th October 2018 another scan was conducted and the doctor confirmed the child was a girl. This is where Winnie suggest I name the child as to get closer to it. I named the child after my mother and Winnie said she would embroid the name on a blanket.

“The most painful thing is, Winnie suggested it was okay to name the baby at this point,” he testified while sobbing.

The court heard that from that point, Winnie sheet started asking for extra funds which were not part of the contract as it left open costs for welfare of the child and surrogate. 

“Often she would call me to tell me the surrogate has an infection and needed to pay for the hospital. At one point, because I had already spent so much I broke down. Some of the friends and family had to help with the money,” he added.

Van Aardt testified that he found Winnie’s behavior worrying. However knowing he would become a father in the coming months, every request she made in the name of the surrogate and the child, he honoured.

The court heard that the baby’s due date was in February and just before the due date he had a baby shower which Winnie encouraged him to do and family and friends attended and bought baby gifts. 

However, the due date passed and Winnie had all sort of excuses as to when the surrogate would be taken to hospital. 

The court heard that the complainant started to panic that the baby was not yet born a few weeks past due date. However, Winnie told him that the baby had not turned correctly.

The witness told court that he thought it would be good if she (surrogate) underwent caesarian section to deliver the baby safely and for her safety too but Winnie said the surrogate had refused yet he was still being asked for money. 

He added that he finally demanded they meet the following morning at Aga Khan hospital. 

“I woke up early and packed the card and all necessary things for the baby to go to Nairobi,” he said.

However, before he left the house, he said he got a call from Winnie who sounded distressed. She said she had gone to check of the surrogate that morning and found her unresponsive and after CPR, the mother and baby were pronounced dead.

Van Aardt said he was distressed and went to wake his parents who had come to see the baby to inform them of the sad news.

He said that from that point he never communicated with Winnie again but his parents and brother did communicate with her.

She told them the mother and unborn baby had been moved to Umash funerals home. Surprisingly, even with the distress he was going through, Winnie still asked for more money saying if he did not send money she would not be able to keep the two in a nice funeral home such as Umash.

He added that through his family, they asked Winnie if they could see the deceased to confirm closure but she refused and made excuses as to why they could not. He said that she even told them their surrogate’s parents had taken possession of the body.

“At this point we became worried and suspected the child could have been born. It this could even be a case of child trafficking. At this point we suspected Winnie could have done something wrong,” he testified.

On 27th February 2019 he contacted Dr Shaheen and told her what had transpired and the doctor was shocked. She said there had been complaints from others clients about  Winnie but not to the level of his.

The doctor confirmed that the sample he had donated was still intact and appeared Winnie never used it.

“I forgot to mention that we investigated and found out that Umash funeral never received a deceased pregnant woman around that time.

The witness told the court that he had not met the surrogate before the contract. He met her after signing the contract in a clinic for a scan.

According to the said contract, either party was to pay the other in case of breach of contract.

Suspecting foul play, the complaint told his lawyer about the incident and thereafter went to report to the police.

The prosecution said there are 9 witnesses remaining including doctors. The Magistrate also cautioned the accuses person against covering her face during the trial. He noted ” we could even be trying the wrong person”.

The hearing will continue on 26th 27th 28th April 2021.