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Former Arizona GOP Politician Gets Prison Sentence For Operating Illegal Adoption Scheme

ABC15 Arizona/YouTube

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.


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.

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.


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."


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."

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, 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.


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.