UPDATE (11/3/17 10:30 a.m.) — Dressed in jail scrubs instead of maternity clothes, Shareen Gurnsey appeared in court Friday morning, facing one count of Theft by Deception and six counts of Probation Violations. The judge gave her a $10,000 bond on the theft charge. However, her she was given no bond on the Probation Violations. She will remain in jail at least until November 7, her next scheduled court date.
MOBILE, AL (WKRG) — A Theodore woman who adoption attorneys say is involved in a nationwide plan to steal from couples was arrested and charged with theft by deception Thursday. Although Shareen Gurnsey is only charged in one case right now, those attorneys say she was taking money from at least four adoptive families in four states — Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Attorneys for those parents say she promised each of them the baby, all while taking money from them The attorneys tell News 5 all of the families were matched with her through separate adoption agencies. They say each of the families paid at least six thousand dollars for a baby boy, who is expected to be born in January.
News 5 spoke with one of the couples. They live in Pennsylvania and say they were matched with her back in August. It is unclear if the charges are directly related to them, or to another couple. They asked that we only use their first names, Beth and Rocky. They have tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby and were thrilled to match with Gurnsey. They tell us they had frequent phone conversations with her and never suspected Gurnsey was anything but truthful. They had even started preparing a nursery.
Beth called Gurnsey her “angel.” The couple says they had agreed to a semi-open adoption, meaning that they would send Gurnsey pictures of the baby boy. The couple claims they have lost thousands of dollars, because not only did they send her $6,000, but they also paid money to the adoption agency. Beth says this has been “financially and emotionally devastating.”
“There are no laws in place to protect the adoptive parents,” Beth said.
Mobile Attorney Richard Shields represents the couple in Pennsylvania. He says he and another local attorney figured out that they were both representing couples who had matched with Gurnsey.
“This is as low as you can get…playing with people’s emotions,” Shields said.
News 5 also spoke with Bob Echols, an attorney in Birmingham who is representing a couple there. He says they also sent thousands of dollars to Gurnsey. Echols says the couple is too devastated to talk on camera. He says Gurnsey and her boyfriend came to Birmingham to meet with the couple last month. He says she told the couple to start picking out names for the baby. Echols calls Gurnsey’s actions “ruthless and heartless.”
Gurnsey has a lengthy criminal history of writing counterfeit checks. She has been convicted on charges of possession of a forged instrument. The checks that Gurnsey was convicted of writing in February of 2013 total just over $28,000.