SEVERE WX : Wind Advisory - High Wind Watch - Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Arizona official who ran fraud scheme for adoption sentenced to six years in prison

A former Arizona county assessor who pleaded guilty to running an adoption fraud scheme has been sentenced to six years in federal prison, according to prose...

Posted: Dec 3, 2020 1:32 PM
Updated: Dec 3, 2020 5:00 PM

A former Arizona county assessor who pleaded guilty to running an adoption fraud scheme has been sentenced to six years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.

Paul Petersen was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and must pay a fine and court costs totaling $105,100, the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Arkansas said in a statement Tuesday.

Petersen, 45, pleaded guilty in June to state and federal charges of running an adoption fraud scheme that involved bringing pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States to give birth. Petersen was an adoption lawyer licensed in Utah and Arizona, and an elected assessor for Maricopa County.

Petersen exploited a legal loophole and used it to run an international adoption business outside of United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands' oversight, federal prosecutors said.

As part of a plea agreement, Petersen pleaded guilty in Arkansas to one federal charge of conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens for financial gain.

He pleaded guilty in Arizona to three state charges of fraudulent schemes and one count of forgery, all felonies in Arizona. In Utah, Petersen pleaded guilty to three state counts of human smuggling and one count of communications fraud.

He faces sentencing in January on the Utah and Arizona charges. In Utah, Petersen faces up to 15 years in prison while he faces up to 16.5 years for the Arizona charges and must forfeit his law license, officials said. Petersen has been disbarred in Arizona, according to the State Bar of Arizona.

Petersen operated the international adoption scheme in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah, according to the Utah attorney general's office. He was accused of running an enterprise to transport pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the state for adoptions. The women came from the islands in the central Pacific and were housed in residences he allegedly owned or leased.

He transported or secured transportation for more than 40 pregnant Marshallese women to Utah between August 2016 and August 2019, federal prosecutors said.

He resigned from his Maricopa County assessor's job and was arrested in October 2019.

Petersen's attorney, Kurt Altman, told CNN affiliate KTVK that his client did not coerce the birth mothers and said they voluntarily participated in the adoptions.

KTVK reported that Petersen acknowledged in a letter to US District Judge Timothy Brooks that he had violated the law and was prepared to pay his debt to society.

'Unfortunately, I crossed that line and must accept the consequences of my actions,' Petersen wrote, apologizing to any mother whom he treated poorly.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement that Petersen allegedly falsified information to place the Marshallese women on state-funded health care to cover delivery costs. The scheme defrauded the state out of more than $814,000, according to Brnovich.

As part of the plea agreement with Arizona, Petersen will pay $650,000 to the Arizona's Medicaid agency. He'll also pay $11,000 to an uncharged victim and $18,000 to the Arizona Attorney General's Office for investigative costs, Brnovich said.

In December 2019, his co-defendant Lynwood Jennet pleaded guilty over her involvement in the adoption fraud scheme. As part of her plea agreement, Jennet agreed to testify against Petersen, Brnovich's office said.

After the adoptions, the women either moved to Arkansas or returned to the Marshall Islands. Petersen and Jennet were accused of directing the mothers to fraudulently misrepresent their residency status to obtain health care benefits.

Authorities in Arizona and Utah said they have no interest in interfering with adoptions that have already taken place. 'They are not under investigation, and their adoptions are not in danger if they are complete,' said Richard Piatt, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general.

Jennet faces a prison sentence of up to four years and is scheduled to be sentenced in January, according to court records.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
Deschutes19577123
Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4812309

Reported Deaths: 70616
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147679126410
Riverside3693444990
San Diego3646344163
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
Kern1441461605
Fresno1441232051
Alameda1198871374
San Joaquin1018071708
Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
El Dorado16960149
Sutter13775169
Napa12808100
Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
Humboldt9102108
Nevada903990
Mendocino752786
Lassen746346
San Benito737372
Tuolumne673993
Lake6506104
Amador537264
Siskiyou442742
Glenn430330
Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
Colusa301718
Inyo196739
Mono16445
Plumas15756
Mariposa127315
Trinity86011
Modoc6698
Unassigned1860
Sierra1760
Alpine1020
Out of CA00
Medford
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 46°
Brookings
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 46°
Crater Lake
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 46°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 46°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 33°
Winds pick up Tuesday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events