Paul Petersen, an elected Republican County Assessor from Phoenix, Arizona was arrested for running an illegal adoption scheme out of three states.
Petersen's scam involved paying women from the Marshall Islands to illegally come to the U.S. and give their babies up for adoption. Adoption-related travel from the island nation has been prohibited by law since 2003.
You can see news footage here:
Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen's guilty plea youtu.be
Petersen was a county assessor for six years, three of which prosecutors claim he was running his adoption scam.
Over that time, state prosecutors from Arizona, Utah and Arkansas believe he arranged at least 70 illegal adoptions.
The politician was forced out of office this past January.
Arizona adoption atty Paul Petersen sentenced to six years, two months in federal prison.— Doug Thompson (@Doug Thompson)1606854632.0
During his sentencing hearing, Paul Petersen denied knowing that his employees in the adoption fraud operation had… https://t.co/P6MXpHve8u— The Daily Beast (@The Daily Beast)1606867860.0
Judge Timothy Brooks also called out Petersen for "[abusing] his position as an attorney" by instructing his co-conspirators to lie under oath so the adoptions would be legally approved.
@thedailybeast Those Christian morals and values.— Beer Snob 63 (@Beer Snob 63)1606868068.0
Judge Brooks didn't stop there, describing Petersen's "criminal livelihood" as "a baby-selling enterprise" which was ripping off the taxpayers he was elected to serve.
At the conclusion of Petersen's trial, Brooks decided the recommended sentencing was not enough and added two additional years to Petersen's time in jail.
@thedailybeast More GOP criming. “The party of law and order”— Jmkerdoc (@Jmkerdoc)1606868117.0
Though Petersen claimed he didn't initially know his adoption arrangements were illegal, the judge didn't buy it, saying:
"You knew that lying and making these false statements to immigration officials and state courts was wrong."
@WisePaxCat Where are the children who were SOLD? This is human trafficking. Where are the mothers who lost their children?— Laura Zinszer 🌠🌈🌉⛵🌊🇺🇸 (@Laura Zinszer 🌠🌈🌉⛵🌊🇺🇸)1606874177.0
Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen sent me an angry text a couple months ago. Didn't like a report I did… https://t.co/JdPa0HdlBn— Brahm Resnik (@Brahm Resnik)1606265768.0
Petersen also came under fire during the trial for his subordinate's alleged treatment of birth mothers who were paid to give up their children.
Prosecutors claim birth mothers' passports were taken from them to prevent them from leaving the country if they began having second thoughts about giving up their children. They were also allegedly threatened with arrest if they did not cooperate.
His attorneys claim Petersen had no knowledge of these actions taken by members of his illegal operation, and Petersen said in court that he "takes responsibility for my lack of oversight."
"While you're serving the public, you're ripping them off" with Medicaid fraud in AZ to pay birth mothers med costs… https://t.co/fShk6bYBHA— Doug Thompson (@Doug Thompson)1606852237.0
Petersen is still set to be sentenced for submitting false documents to Arizona's medicaid system so birth mothers could receive state-funded health coverage.
He also already plead guilty to conspiring to commit human smuggling in Arkansas and Utah and is set to be sentenced in January.
Petersen led a double life, Brooks finds, judging by the sincerity of his letters of support from family and friend… https://t.co/e7xovCJqSs— Doug Thompson (@Doug Thompson)1606852726.0
https://t.co/SimQ9U9EPK I guess if I could say anything that it's best that this happen to a tax assessor. Right? 6… https://t.co/UpWNdPO2ih— Woke WOODMAN (@Woke WOODMAN)1606920340.0
Petersen, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, took an extended Mission Trip to the Marshal Islands earlier in life.
At that time, he became fluent in the Marshallese language.
Though the politician claims he had the best intentions at heart, trying to bring a stable life to Marshallese children, he also admitted to being ashamed of his actions.
@azfamily Now he should be tried for collecting salary and not performing duties of elected assessor— Brad Grover (@Brad Grover)1606862324.0
Whether his intentions were good or bad, human trafficking is never a good look for a politician and Petersen will be paying for his mistake with many long years in prison.