Arizona Official Accused of Arranging 28 Fraudulent Adoptions

Arizona Official Accused of Arranging 28 Fraudulent Adoptions

Petersen, who was indicted this week in three states on charges including human smuggling, sale of a child, money laundering, fraud, forgery, and theft, is accused of flying pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the USA with the promise of $10,000 to put their babies up for adoption.

An Arkansas judge says his court will decide individual outcomes in 19 adoption cases involving an Arizona official accused of human smuggling.

"Many of these mothers described their ordeal as being treated like property", Duane Kees, the US attorney for the western district of Arkansas, said, according to the AP.

Petersen's attorney, Matthew Long, defended his client's actions during a Tuesday court hearing in Phoenix as "proper business practices" and said they disagreed with the allegations.

Prior to his arrest, Petersen was serving as the Assessor for Maricopa County, Ariz, an elected position, according to CBS affiliate KPHO in Phoenix, Ariz.

Michaela Montie said she created Shared Beginnings to "offer our services and support to expecting mothers who don't have anywhere to turn or adoptive parents who don't know what to do with this news".

The Marshall Islands sit between the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines and belong to a Compact of Free Association with the United States.

"I thought there's no way that this guy is not legitimate", she said.

"Many of these mothers described their ordeal as being treated like property", Kees said.

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Petersen's arraignment on his Arkansas charges is set for October 29 in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.

Court documents allege that Petersen charged adoptive families up to $40,000 per child, raking in about $2.7 million in less than two years. "Make no mistake: this case is the purest form of human trafficking".

Lawyer accused of flying pregnant Marshallese...

The scheme defrauded Arizona's Medicaid system of $800,000 because the women had no intention of remaining in the state when they applied, according to Arizona prosecutors.

An agreement between the United States and the Marshall Islands generally bans Marshallese people from traveling to the United States for adoptions.

Petersen has faced troubles with his adoption practices in the past.

The investigation uncovered that several Utah hospital staffers had noticed an influx of Marshallese women giving birth and then giving their child up for adoption.

Authorities do not believe the women were misled into believing their children might be returned at some point. Authorities say Petersen used $814,000 of taxpayer funds for state health care coverage for the women after falsifying their residency records, the New York Times reports. "It is also worth repeating that despite what some may say to keep women in a specific adoption plan, no one is going to jail for getting help".

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