Official quits amid charges he paid women to give up babies

PHOENIX — An elected official in metro Phoenix has resigned months after being charged with running a human smuggling operation that paid pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to give up their babies in the U.S.

The resignation of Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen on Tuesday came after leaders in the one of the nation's most populous counties suspended him and have pressured him to resign since his arrest nearly three months ago. The county's governing board voted in late December to start the process of removing Petersen, who also works as an adoption attorney.

He is accused of illegally paying women from the Pacific island nation to come to the United States to give up their babies in at least 70 adoption cases in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas over three years.

Citizens of the Marshall Islands have been prohibited from traveling to the U.S. for adoption purposes since 2003.

Petersen is charged with human smuggling in Utah and Arkansas and defrauding Arizona's Medicaid system by $800,000 by submitting false applications for the women to receive state-funded health coverage.

Authorities say the women who went to Utah to give birth received little to no prenatal care. They also said Petersen and his associates took passports from the pregnant women while they were in the U.S. to assert more control over them.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Arizona and Arkansas. He hasn't yet entered a plea in Utah.

His attorneys have said Petersen ran a legal adoption practice and has been vilified before his side of the story comes out. They had argued that the county governing board had no basis for suspending him.

Petersen, a Republican whose office determines the property values in Arizona’s most populous county, which includes Phoenix, previously rejected calls to resign and was fighting his 120-day unpaid suspension.

Thousands of files related to his adoption business were discovered on his government laptop, cementing the board’s push to remove him. Content recovered on the laptop included text messages of pregnant women being threatened when they changed their minds about giving up their newborns.

Petersen, who was paid $77,000 a year in his government job, won a 2014 special election to be assessor and was re-elected in 2016. His term was scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christs of Latter-day Saints, he completed a proselytizing mission in the Marshall Islands, a collection of atolls and islands in the eastern Pacific.

Lynwood Jennet, who was accused of helping Petersen in the scheme, pleaded guilty last month in Arizona to helping arrange state-funded health coverage for the expectant mothers, even though the women didn't live in the state. She has agreed to testify against Petersen.

You may also like these

Australia reveals pre-poll plan to balance budget...

May 8, 2018

Australia reveals pre-poll plan to balance budget in 2 years while cutting taxes

EU trade commissioner says trade liberalization...

Jun 18, 2018

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says trade liberalization continues to have global...

Law lets Australian govt ban extremists for up to...

Jul 25, 2019

The Australian Parliament has passed laws that enable the government to prevent suspected...

Hundreds of refugees protest outside Australian...

Jul 30, 2019

Hundreds of protesters have rallied outside Parliament House highlighting the uncertain futures of...

Asian stocks mostly higher after Wall Street...

Aug 17, 2016

Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday after Wall Street declined

Search
Financial Markets

About Us

Established in 2015, The Upstocker provides insights on financial reports, commentary, and investment data to traders so that you can make better investment decisions.

Contact us: sales[at]theupstocker.com

Subscribe Now!