Families unable to access thousands of dollars being held in surrogacy escrow account

Becoming a family of three was not easy for AnnaMaria Gallozzi and her husband, to say the least.

"In October 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer," said Gallozzi, an intended parent in Austin.

She and her husband delayed cancer treatment to do IVF and create embryos, and they were successful. 

"In the middle of the radiation, we got matched with our first surrogate," said Gallozzi. "That was at the height of COVID."

They welcomed their son Michael in 2021. 

They decided to try for another child and began the process in January 2024. They used the same escrow account company they had used with Michael, Surrogacy Escrow Account Management, or SEAM, based out of Houston.

"When you pay for the work that your surrogate is doing, being pregnant and all the fees that go along with it and medical bills, you get an escrow company to manage that to mitigate risk," said Gallozzi. "You want the health and safety of the baby to be top priority, and then second to that is everything else that's going on."

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Photo credit: AnnaMaria Gallozzi

In May, they conducted an embryo transfer, and their surrogate had a miscarriage. They planned to try again in August, but then in June, their surrogate said she hadn’t received her monthly payment.

Gallozzi said she checked their account portal and there was a notification that payments would be "delayed." Shortly after, Gallozzi received a message from SEAM which said, due to unauthorized ACH transfers, the accounts were frozen, and new accounts were in the process of being set up.

A few days later, Gallozzi and other clients received another email from the owner, Dominique Side, saying, "due to legal action...operations have been placed on hold." 

They haven’t heard from Side since.

Side’s Instagram and a website for one of her businesses also appear to have been taken down. 

"We have over $50,000 that's in SEAM, or not in SEAM, at the moment," said Gallozzi. "We can't touch it, and we have no idea if it's there or not,"

New Braunfels resident Jeremy Sims and his wife are also on their second surrogate journey with SEAM. Their baby is supposed to be induced on July 31.

"We personally have $30,000 left. We started with $80,000," said Sims.  "Nobody's getting any answers. Nobody's heard from the agency owner. All her employees are gone."

The escrow company is based in Houston, but FOX 7 received emails and texts from clients in Texas, Washington, Florida and California, and were told there are international clients as well. 

"We are seeking answers and want to know if our money is gone and what our options are," said Chris Kettmann, an intended parent in California. "Everyone using this company has been left in the dark."

"We are struggling to continue making monthly payments to our surrogate on time because we don't want her to be affected by a situation that is not her fault and beyond our control," said Jennie Tran, an intended parent in Austin. "More than anything, we don't want our baby to grow under the stress of the surrogate. This is a sad situation for all intended parents, surrogates, and the babies involved."

"I have about $40,000 left with the escrow company that is now frozen, and I have no access to it. I don’t even know if it’s still there," said Arielle Mitton, an intended parent in Washington state who set up a GoFundMe to try and raise funds to pay her surrogate.

A Facebook group created in June to discuss the current situation with SEAM has more than 800 members. Some legal action has already been taken by an intended parent as well as lenders that have worked with Side, according to court records from New York and Texas. 


A "Return of Service" document was filed on Tuesday as part of the former client's civil case, showing that representatives from an Austin-based bank had been subpoenaed to "appear before the 80th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, on the 17th day of July 2024, at 1:30 p.m. to produce a corporate representative to testify as a witness."

Court documents also show that a suit was filed against SEAM by Harris County in 2022 over unpaid property taxes.

The FBI is now investigating as well and has asked for feedback from those who have worked with SEAM.

"At some point we've got to start unraveling this in a meaningful way and figuring out where the money is. And so there will be some other actions that could be taking place on the litigation side," said Andrew Bluebond, Gallozzi’s attorney. "There is not an external body that regulates, very clearly, these companies…One of the things that we really hope that can come out of this is better regulation and better transparency going forward for folks."

FOX 7 reached out to SEAM and received an automated response. 

"My company and I have been noticed that we are subject to an active investigation by federal authorities," read an email signed by Side. "Under advice of counsel, I am not permitted to respond to any inquiries regarding the investigation."

In the meantime, surrogates and families are left in a devastating limbo.

"From the miscarriage to losing these funds and potentially losing our chance to have another child. We're not handling it well. My husband and I are in devastation. I could cry at the drop of a hat, and I'm trying really hard not to cry right now," said Gallozzi. "We were seeing our hopes and dreams just vanish before us, and we took out a loan to be able to do this that we're still going to have to pay back without being able to use those funds for what they were intended for."

Gallozzi and her husband have also created a GoFundMe which can be found here.