Woman from Marshall Islands accused of helping with alleged adoption fraud scheme pleads not guilty

The woman charged along with Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen in an alleged adoption fraud scheme faced judge and entered a not guilty plea on Thursday.

Lynwood Jennet pleaded not guilty to more than five dozen charges that include fraud, forgery and theft.

She's accused of helping Petersen bring more than two dozen pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States as part of a multi-million dollar international adoption scheme.

Jennet, who is from the Marshall Islands, remains behind bars on a $250,000 cash bond.

She's worked for Petersen's adoption law firm for the past several years.

Prosecutors say she acted as a translator, telling women they would get paid if they flew to the United States and gave their baby up for adoption.

Dozens of Arizona families have adopted Marshallese babies through Petersen's law firm.

Right now, at least six pregnant Marshallese women are living in a Mesa apartment. They don't speak English and they don't have any support.

"[The] living conditions are atrocious. There's no bedding, a lot of them are sleeping on the floor, there's not enough mattresses, there's very little furniture and hardly any food," said Greg Pratt.

The pastor of Life Church at South Mountain, Greg Pratt, is facilitating donations for the pregnant women.

There is a Marshallese congregation that worships at the church.

Pratt says the women are terrified. They didn't know about the alleged illegal adoption scheme they are caught in, and they still don't fully understand the situation.

"They want to go back home. They want to be with their families back home. They came here for a new opportunity and they feel they've been deceived and let down," Pratt said.

As for Petersen's arraignment, it's been postponed to November. He is currently in federal custody.

He was charged with human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas. Petersen faces 62 charges that span about three years and involve nearly 75 adoptions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.