POLICE — Mother from Orange, couple hatch scheme to buy/sell baby

Published 5:17 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

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A woman from Orange and a couple from Ohio are behind bars on allegations of selling/buying a child and insurance fraud.

Harley Dee Matthews, 28, of Orange took a bus from Ohio and was taken into custody Wednesday in Rose City, where she turned herself in to law enforcement. She is suspected of selling her child and health insurance fraud.

Bond is set at $10,000 for each charge.

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Jerrica Elee Jeane, 34, and husband Mitchell Leigh Jeane, 34, came in from Ohio on Thursday and turned their selves in to law enforcement voluntarily, as well.

Jerrica is facing charges of buying a child and health care fraud, while Mitchell is charged with buying a child. Bond is $10,000 for each charge.

Matthews and the couple were all indicted within the past several months of the charges by a Hardin County grand jury.

The allegations

Lumberton Police Sergeant Chad Wilson, who was one of the investigators on the case, said Matthews is the biological mother of the girl, and Matthew and Jerrica Jeane are the people who bought the child.

Wilson said Matthews fell on hard times and previously lived with the Jeane couple at different times.

The Jeane couple previously lived in Lumberton, as well as in Ohio.

Matthews was living with the couple in 2021 when she learned she was pregnant, Wilson said. At that time she had no money or a way to take care of a child.

She reportedly conspired with the couple for Matthews to assume the identify of Jerrica, which included her name, Social Security number and ID for insurance purposes, so she could receive prenatal and other medical services.

Besides assuming Jerrica’s identity, the alleged agreement included selling the child to the couple for $5,000.

Using the false name at the birth of the child allowed Jerrica’s name, not Matthews’ to be on the birth certificate.

The child was delivered at Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth in Beaumont, which meant the insurance fraud charges were in a different jurisdiction, so the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation’s Division was brought in for that portion of the investigation, Wilson said.

The infant was in the neonatal ICU at the hospital and approximately three days later a veteran nurse saw Matthews with the baby but using Jerrica’s name.

The nurse had some form of previous dealings with Jerrica.

Mitchel Jeane was reportedly in the room with Matthews, acting as if Matthews were his wife, the police sergeant said. Then the real Jerrica showed up to visit, using Matthews’ name and presented herself as the baby’s aunt.

At that time the nurse realized who the real Jerrica was because she had taken care of her infant two years prior, he said.

After some checking the nurse contacted her supervisors, who contacted the police department.

Wilson said police were notified Feb. 28, 2022.

Matthews and Mitchell and Jerrica Jeane are cooperating with law enforcement, Wilson said.

The indictments on the three were handed down within the past several months.

At the time of the investigation, the Jeanes had nine children living with them, not including the baby.

Child Protective Services stepped in and took custody of the children. Wilson said some of the children were the biological children of the couple and others were not.

At the time the baby was born, Mitchell was out on bond and was arrested at the hospital on sexual assault of a child warrant.

Port Arthur Newsmedia requested the indictments from Hardin County District Attorney’s Office on Harley Matthews, Jerrica Jeane and Mitchell Jeane shortly before noon Thursday.

A response was not received as of Thursday afternoon.