PHOENIX - A reporter in Hawaii who helped spur an investigation into a human smuggling ring that allegedly involved Maricopa County Assessor Paul D. Petersen is speaking out Wednesday.
Reporters in the Pacific Ocean state were zeroed in on Petersen from the start.
I mean, we had a hard time understanding why these attorneys, not just Petersen but others that we knew about, were able to do this because it seemed so clearly to be against the law," said John Hill, in a phone interview.
Hill pulled no punches in his first report on Petersen for the Honolulu Civil Beat, a non-profit news organization that has specialized in watchdog journalism for the last decade. The report first ran nearly a year ago.
"The lead of the story is that Paul Petersen had bought this house in Salt Lake City or outside of Salt Lake City, and used it as a hub for black market adoptions."
According to court filings released Tuesday night to FOX 10 by the Arizona Attorney General's Office, officials in Arizona have filed 32 indictments against Petersen and a woman named Lynwood Jennet, accusing them of conspiracy, fraudulent schemes and artifices, theft, fraudulent schemes and practices, and forgery.
Prosecutors said Petersen used associates based in the Marshall Islands to recruit pregnant women by offering many of them $10,000 each to give up their babies for adoption in the United States.
The pregnant women were often crammed in the homes, according to authorities. One adoptive family visited a Utah home where they saw 15 pregnant women sleeping on mattresses on a bare floor in what they described as a "baby mill," according to charging documents.
In Arizona, DPS officials who raided a home at an apartment complex in East Mesa found eight pregnant women inside the home.
Authorities allege the scheme defrauded Arizona's Medicaid system of $800,000 because the women had no intention of remaining in the state when they applied for coverage.
"In other words, Arizona taxpayers were paying for the birth of these babies in order for them to be adopted by other people," said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Officials say they will not try to undo or interfere with dozens of adoptions done as part of the human trafficking scheme.
"No one's going to go back and redo adoptions or any of that kind of stuff," said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Brnovich said the focus of the case is on the abuse of the system by Petersen. Prosecutors also said Wednesday that they consider the adoptive parents to be victims in the scheme.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to the report.