Paul Petersen, a former Arizona county assessor and adoption lawyer pleads guilty to running an adoption fraud scheme on Thursday.
What We Know:
- Petersen brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States to give birth to their babies and charge families to adopt them. He was an adoption lawyer licensed in Utah and Arizona. Petersen has pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent schemes and one count of forgery. According to the latter’s office of the Attorney General, he operated the scheme in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah.
- Petersen brought these women over and housed them in residences he allegedly leased or owned. He transported more than 40 pregnant Mashallese women to Utah between August 2016 and August 2019. The official document state he collected the fees from each adoption from what the adoptive parents paid him.
- Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnowich says, “While Paul Petersen enjoyed a position of respect and trust in the community, he manipulated adoptive families and bilked Arizona taxpayers for his own profit. Mr. Petersen must now answer for his crimes. It doesn’t matter if you’re politically connected, wealthy, or an elected official, the rule of law applies equally to everyone.” Arizona was defrauded of $814,000. Petersen will have to pay $650,000 to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, $11,000 to an uncharged victim and $18,000 to the Arizona attorney general’s office for investigative costs.
- Adoptions that have already been completed will not be interfered with according to authorities in Arizona and Utah. Petersen faces additional criminal investigations over allegations for providing false information on the birth mothers’ fees to prospective adoptive parents and to the Maricopa County Superior Court Juvenile Division.
Lynwood Jennet pleaded guilty for her involvement in the adoption scheme. She faces two to four years in the Arizona Department of Corrections while Petersen faces three to 12.5 years.