PHOENIX - Officials in three states say they will not try to undo or interfere with dozens of adoptions done as part of a human smuggling scheme that led to charges against Maricopa County Assessor Paul D. Petersen.
Prosecutors in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas said Wednesday that they consider the adoptive parents to be victims in the scheme along with the biological mothers who were brought from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and hand over their babies.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the focus of the case is on the abuse of the system by Petersen. Authorities say Petersen has for years run an adoption law practice in Mesa.
"No one's going to go back and redo adoptions or any of that kind of stuff," Brnovich said.
Paul Petersen (MCSO)
In the statement released Tuesday night, officials with the Utah Attorney General's Office said Petersen was arrested in California, and accused him of running an illegal adoption scheme where he recruited, transported, and offered payment to pregnant women from the nation of Marshall Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, to give their babies up for adoption in the United States.
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.
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. Long also disputed the cash bond of $500,000, saying his client had strong ties to his hometown of Mesa, Arizona, and was not a flight risk. Long said Petersen has known for weeks that he's been under investigation.
On Petersen's law office website, he is described as having been a private adoption attorney for over 15 years.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.