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October 13, 2015

Did the Cerda Family Con 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' Into Building Them a House?

by Jean Bentley, posted May 18th 2011 4:25PM
With all the heartwarming do-gooding shown on ABC's 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,' it's inevitable that con artists would want in on the action. According to E! Online, one family succeeded in fleecing the network.

E! alleges that the Cerda family, who appeared on the show in March 2009, conned ABC into building them a fancy new home specially equipped with air filtration systems for their two ailing daughters, who suffer from combined immunodeficiency disease. The problem: the daughters may not be sick after all.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

The family moved from Las Vegas to Oregon, allegedly because they couldn't keep up with house payments and medical bills. According to a comprehensive report in The Oregonian, the Cerdas tried to assemble a new medical team in their new hometown, but doctors there didn't find anything wrong with the girls. In fact, they were so skeptical that they reported the Cerdas to child welfare services, who then took custody of the children.

A legal battle ensued, in which six different doctors testified against mother Terri Cerda, saying the girls were not sick and accusing her of having Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. Though no doctors testified on Cerda's behalf, The Oregonian reports that a pediatrician at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center confirmed that the children had been diagnosed with Primary Immune Deficiency Disease.

Cerda told The Oregonian that several medical documents the family submitted to the court were refused as evidence. "We have several hundred pages of medical documents that prove our kids have been diagnosed with immune deficiency disease since they were four years old," she said. "We saw doctors that were top notch in the world. The kids have been tested, and you can't lie about lab work."

Even with all the back and forth, the judge found father Chuck Cerda a fit enough parent to release the girls back into the care of their family. Terri and the girls are now back in Las Vegas with their original team of doctors.

There are several problems with this story, not the least of which is the fact that despite ABC's integral role in the story (i.e., there wouldn't be one without the TV show) no one from The Oregonian reached out to the network, which has aired 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' for the past eight scam-free seasons, to comment.

So why now? Why this family? People move all the time, for many reasons -- selling an 'Extreme Makeover' house might sound crazy, but it's hardly against the law. In The Oregonian piece, the writer does admit that parents are occasionally branded with the Munchausen label when children appear healthy one day and sick another, and "some psychiatrists and psychologists agree ... that doctors and child welfare workers are sometimes too quick to judge."

AOL TV asked ABC to comment, but they're not dignifying this story with a response. The underlying message we're getting from them, though, is that the allegations have some major holes. So, take the story with a grain of salt.

Watch the house tour here:

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Michael Cerda

As a person who shares the last name of the family in question. This show takes a hard working family, that has fallen on hard times, and they renovate thier home. Lower class people, that can't afford proper medical care are at a disadvantage. Even if Thier low paying jobs offer a health plan, it is probably some BS HMO that passes the buck on to a different doctor. This is the only way a family with ill children can have a "team" of doctors. If this family couldn't afford a team of doctors, they probably didn't need you to build them a new house. How about giving them EXTREME HEALTHCARE!

February 22 2012 at 6:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They probably moved bc/ they couldn't afford the taxes, energy bills, etc., on the NEW home. This happens a lot w/ this show. I used to think it was great that all these good families were getting homes and help and problems were over. Unfortunately that's not the case w/ all the families. Most lose the home bc/ they can't afford property mortgages or taxes, or they sell it so they can build a house that they can afford. I truly think the show started w/ good intentions, but was twisted into something else. These families would be better off w/ a Habitat house better suited to their financial range. I just wish it COULD be the way it looks. They don't tell the families EVERYTHING. I was miave too. Not now. I hope God will take care of these families.

September 19 2011 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Redneck Woman

This is funny (not the story). just the other night I was talking with a friend of mine who lives in Las Vegas and actually lives down the road from where the family use to live. She said that one of the main reasons they moved is because they were being outed by the neighbors. People did not think they were deserving enough to have this done for them. They seen the 2 little girls outside playing all the time, no problems with their health. But when it came time for the show all of a sudden the were very very ill they never seen them and when they did they had on masks and were not allowed to play.
There are so many families out there that do deserve to have something this wonderful done for them. ei Military Families. Disabled Vets, People who actually do something good for the community.
Yes some of these houses are way over the top. keep some of them basic. But if it a special needs person then accommodate it for them. There have been so many families that after all was said and done could not afford to stay in these houses anymore because they were so elaborate and big and the up keep was hard. Where does that land them, back to the beginning. I pray that these girls are okay and healthy no child deserves to go through something like this. And if it is the mother who created such an elaborate story just to get on tv and have a new house built then I hope she gets some much needed help.

May 19 2011 at 6:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is very common in America for women to exploit children for unearned income, false victim statas as well as manic control. Every courthouse in America, every day of the week is full of so called moms seeking to exploit a child and their father for false victim statas, manic control and unearned income. Americas gender bias against fathers courts have allowed this exploitation for decades forcing fathers to be absent from their own child against their will and forced to be an absentee checkbook for the deadbeat manipulative so called mom. Our media and feminist cult has spun the issue of single moms into some automatic victim statas scheme that has done much harm to our familys and to our society.So this womans efforts to exploit a twisted warped victim statas is just par for the course. Children and their fathers have suffered in silence for too long and its harm to our overall society has been great and far reaching.

May 19 2011 at 6:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about all the federal monies she has stolen from the government through SSI (entitlement program) What gets me she says she cannot have outside people come into the house but she has a dog, try to figure that one out.

May 19 2011 at 5:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And I thought they did a thorough back ground check on potential clients! Huh! So much for the American dream!

May 19 2011 at 4:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

This show cost around million to two million for one show to be made. Thats really sad, when so many other houses could have been built.

May 19 2011 at 3:32 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

If I had a child with Immune Deficiency Disease. I wouldnt own a outside Dog.

May 19 2011 at 3:23 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


May 19 2011 at 3:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Firstly. I can't stand Ty Pennington that overgrown child like loud mouth. Secondly, this is my question.
When the house is completed and furnished, !) Who pays the mortgage! 2) Who pays the utility bills!
3) Who pays for mowing and landscaping! 4) Who pays for and food, clothing! 5) Who pays for fueling the car!
4) Who pays for various necessary insurances!, 5) Who cleans these large homes! 6) Who looks after these multiple children!

This entire show is suspicious from beginning to end.

May 19 2011 at 3:03 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to BARBRA!'s comment

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