June 10, 2007
What's the deal with baby dealers?

Was it just me, or did anybody else who read this Press story about shady adoption "facilitator" Jennalee Ryan have a flashback to shady would-be uterus broker Whitney Broach?

If the name Whitney Broach doesn't ring a bell, think back to 1993, when she got 15 minutes of fame that she's been hiding from ever since.

It started when a billboard went up along the Southwest Freeway advertising a "womb for rent." An anonymous woman was offering to be a surrogate mother for what her lawyer said was the going rate of $100,000.

The billboard got worldwide publicity, but when reporters started digging, they found out who the anonymous woman was -- Whitney Neuhaus Broach -- and what she was.

She's been convicted of fraud and money laundering in a New Orleans federal court for filing fictitious health insurance claims in connection with her weight-loss clinic. She's been the loser in a federal suit in which the government alleged she was charging women for tests using a bogus machine to detect breast cancer.

Broach, who has used many aliases throughout her checkered business career, was even arrested -- but never charged -- in the 1983 killing of her then-husband. The Chronicle reported in 1993 that New Orleans law enforcement officials said that Broach, then known as Cherie Ward Werling, "presented a battered-wife defense and was never prosecuted for the killing."

Broach surfaced again locally in 2002 when former Chron columnist Thom Marshall wrote about her "charitable foundation" without having been aware of her past. In googling ol' Whitney, it turns out I may have been a bit harsh on ol' Thom. He apparently wasn't the first writer to fall for her BS:

This marriage is the second round for Roger and Whitney Broach, Mr. and Mrs. Texas. He was divorced, and she was a widow. She has luminescent green eyes that never blink. She works as a paralegal and does tattoo removal and permanent cosmetics in a room that adjoins Roger's law office. "My first husband was abusive and I vowed I would never marry again," Whitney whispers in a petite voice. "But 20 minutes after meeting Roger, I knew he was a genius. And he's fantastic in bed," she adds, without batting a permanently lined lid. They eloped to Vegas on a very low budget. After spending $25 on a marriage license, Whitney talked a chapel owner into marrying them for $12. The honeymoon was dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

While Roger was recovering from heart surgery, Whitney averaged four hours of sleep in order to care for his clients as well as her patients. She wants to remove gang tattoos in exchange for ex-gangsters' performing community service. If they win, Whitney and Roger plan to visit women in shelters and prisons to illustrate that not all marriages are bad.

There's really nothing I can add to that, is there?

Anyway. That's what reading the Press' current cover story reminded me of. Read it for yourself, and if you remember Whitney Broach, see if you agree.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 10, 2007 to Society and cultcha