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Commonwealth of Virginia

Commonwealth’s Attorney for Wise County & the City of Norton

For Immediate Release April 16, 2020


CONTACT: Jessica Hood, Outreach/Public Affairs Director Phone: 276-328-9406
Chuck Slemp, Commonwealth's Attorney Email: press@wisecwa.info

ADOPTION HOAX CASE LEGISLATION SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation this week inspired by an elaborate
adoption hoax from 2019. Senate Bill 1003 was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly by
Senator Ben Chafin at the request of Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp. The new
law will take effect on July 1, 2020 and will close a legal loophole that allows an individual to
maliciously use an internet-capable device to perpetrate costly and potentially devastating fraud on
unsuspecting victims.

Senator Ben Chafin said, “I was proud to sponsor this legislation to close the loophole that
currently exists in Virginia law. The Internet is an important tool that allows for instant communication
and commerce across the country. Unfortunately, it also is a tool used by criminals to inflict pain and
suffering on innocent victims. This new law will provide additional protections for victims like Matt
and Laura Trayte against computer crimes in the Commonwealth.”

Like many couples, Matt and Laura Trayte, from Orange County, California, wanted to
have a baby yet struggled with miscarriages and infertility. They sought the help of medical
experts and adoption agencies without success. Thus, in early 2018 the Traytes created a website
to achieve their goal and complete their family.

In 2018, Elizabeth Jones, from Scott County, Virginia, contacted the Traytes via the
Internet and told them that she was pregnant and looking for an adoptive placement for her unborn
child. Jones sent pictures of an ultrasound and a stuffed unicorn with a recording of what she said
was their baby's heartbeat. After lengthy correspondence, plans were made and paperwork drafted
to complete the adoption.

The Traytes traveled from California to Scott County multiple times in November 2018.
Jones took Laura Trayte on tours of birthing centers at local hospitals, took Mrs. Trayte to an
obstetrician appointment, visited an attorney and drafted legal documents, and took professional
photographs for birth announcements. The Traytes bought Jones meals, gifts, and other items.

In late 2018, Jones informed the Traytes that she was in early labor and that something was
wrong. She sent photographs of a bloody toilet and bloody bed sheets to the California couple.
Matt and Laura Trayte, and their six-year-old son, flew from California to be present for the birth
of the baby and to help if anything was wrong. Tragically, as the anxious new parents waited and
prayed for the health of the baby at the birthing center and emergency room of Holston Valley
Hospital in Kingsport, Tennessee, the elaborate scam was finally exposed. Jones admitted that she
was never pregnant.
In early 2019, Jones admitted to her probation officer that she made up the entire scheme
for attention and because “I wanted someone to feel pain other than me.” Jones pleaded guilty last
June in the Scott County Circuit Court for crimes against the Traytes.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp prosecuted the case against Elizabeth Jones. He
said, “The hoax perpetrated by Elizabeth Jones against Matt and Laura Trayte is outrageous. She
intentionally inflicted pain on a vulnerable family and took advantage of their trust, kindness, and
generosity. She intentionally inflicted pain on unsuspecting, vulnerable, and trusting individuals.
The Trayte family expended enormous sums of money that they will never fully recover as a result
of Ms. Jones’s deceit.”

Slemp said, “I'm calling this legislation 'Trayte's law' because, while Matt and Laura Trayte
suffered unimaginable heartache from this act of deliberate cruelty, their suffering has also inspired
something good.” He explained the importance for the new law, “Jones was convicted in June
2019 of obtaining money by false pretenses because the Traytes bought meals and gifts for her.
But, if Jones had not benefited financially from the hoax, she would have escaped prosecution
despite her intentional acts to harm others. That’s why this bill is needed. It prevents others, like
Jones, from slipping through the loophole in the computer crimes laws of our Commonwealth.”

Matt Trayte said, “We desperately need laws that will help protect our citizens from
predators that are waiting to take advantage of vulnerable people online. It happened to us when
a supposed birth mom reached out to us in 2018 and we falsely believed that she was making our
dream come true. The emotional turmoil that has resulted from her predatory, malicious, and
deliberate actions has had a lasting impact on our family and this type of crime is happening to
countless others. It is our hope that this bill will send a clear message to those that intend to use
the internet to hurt others in Virginia will be held accountable for their actions.”

Larua Trayte said, “The day we waited in the hospital for the baby that never existed could
have easily broken us, and understandably so. We could have returned back to our home in
California defeated and suffering in silence. But, in our grief and shock, we picked up the phone
and started making calls to law enforcement, press, and anyone else who would listen. Our mission
was to make sure that Elizabeth Jones was held accountable for her actions. We also wanted to
turn something horrible into something good by bringing awareness to this type of adoption fraud.
Now, we hope that this legislation will become law so that no one else suffers the pain and
heartache that we have experienced.”

Under the new law, Virginia Code Section 18.2-152.7:2, “Any person who, without the
intent to receive any direct or indirect benefit, maliciously sends an electronically transmitted
communication containing a false representation intended to cause another person to spend
money, and such false representation causes such person to spend money, is guilty of a Class 1
misdemeanor.”

In Virginia, a Class 1 misdemeanor carries the maximum total punishment of up to 12


months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

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