PHOENIX (AP) — The assessor of Arizona's largest county has been indicted in connection with 11 felony offenses, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud in an adoption fraud scheme, authorities said.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office confirmed the 32-count federal indictment Tuesday against Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen for conspiracy, theft, forgery, and 29 counts of fraudulent schemes, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

Petersen has for years run an adoption law practice in Mesa that involves bringing women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth. Their babies are then adopted by U.S. parents, authorities said. Petersen charged $40,000 per adoption, according to his website.

Petersen illegally obtained services from Arizona's Medicaid system for the women by falsely claiming they are Arizona residents, the indictment said. He also violated U.S. law prohibiting citizens of the Marshall Islands from traveling to the U.S. for the purpose of adoption, the indictment said.

"Petersen is alleged to have run an illegal adoption scheme where he recruited, transported, and offered payment to pregnant Marshallese women to give their babies up for adoption in the United States," according to a statement from the office of Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.

Petersen is accused of transporting more than 40 pregnant Marshall Islands women into Utah during the past three years as part of the scheme, the statement said.

"While Mr. Petersen is entitled to a presumption of innocence, our investigation uncovered evidence that he has committed horrible crimes," Reyes said in the statement. "Petersen's illegal adoption scheme exploited highly vulnerable groups in two countries — the birth mothers and families in the Marshall Islands and the adoptive parents here in Utah."

Lynwood Jennet was also named in the indictment. Additional information about Jennet was not immediately available.

Petersen is in his second term as assessor following a special election victory in 2014 and re-election in 2016. He served nearly eight years as the assessor's office representative to the Arizona Legislature and as the agency's public information officer.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security Investigations and the Utah Attorney General's Office were involved in the arrest, officials said.

An investigation last year by the Hawaii news website Honolulu Civil Beat last year questioned the legality of adoptions Petersen administers through his work as a private adoption attorney.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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(11) comments

JVW

Guilty until Proven Innocent. Our Local Communist has spoken.



Oh. Sorry, Democrats

HwyRovr

Who is "our local Communist?" Be precise and able to prove such libel.

happy coot

Just a quick comment to hwyrover, although I agree with you most of the time I don't think we need to resort to name calling,leave that to the King and his minions in Washington we are way better than them.

HwyRovr

I know, I dislike doing it. But it seems to be the only way DOTs get the point. Thank you for your comment. I'll force myself to back off - a bit.

VA172

Calling someone names does not get a point across. Adult discussions do work. Try that sometime. Calling people names doesn't. Another thing that helps is having a little respect for others opinions and not attacking them for it. Trying doing that and just maybe some of the DOT's might find a little respect for you.

HwyRovr

Suealy and his oink, oink shows up again.

HwyRovr

Squealy on 8 October, “Apparently SQUAWKY hasn't figured out that Simondog just says things, true or not, just to get ROVR'S shrapnel in a ruffle. Sarcasm at it's best and SQUAWKY falls for it every time.” Squealy on 9 October, “Calling someone names does not get a point across… Calling people names doesn't.” Oink, oink, oink says little Squealy. “HwyRovr” - “its”

VA172

The worst excuse for a human being rears his ugly squawking head again. So much for you laying off the name calling. Just goes to prove your word means nothing.

happy coot

Its not a crime till you get caught. Just another scumbag doing what THEY do best enriching themselves at the expense of real taxpayers and democracy in general. Everyone knows who THEY are don't we.

HwyRovr

Another good Republiscum gest caught. Vote solid blue in 2020.

HwyRovr

Darn it! Should be "gets". Sorry for any confusion.

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