Former public official sentenced for Utah adoption scheme case

Local News
Paul Petersen, Kurt Altman

FILE – In this Nov. 5, 2019, file photo, former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, right, walks with his attorney, Kurt Altman, as they leave a court hearing in Phoenix. Petersen, who has acknowledged running an adoption scheme in three states that involved women from the Marshall Islands, is required to report to federal prison by midday Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, to start serving a 6-year sentence for his guilty plea in Arkansas to conspiring to commit human smuggling. Petersen also is awaiting sentencing for related convictions in Arizona and in Utah. (AP Photo/Jacques Billeaud, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Former Maricopa Arizona County Assessor Paul Petersen was sentenced for his role in an adoption fraud scheme on Wednesday.

The scheme involved illegally transporting pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to Utah, Arizona, and Arkansas. The women gave birth and their babies were later put up for adoption.

According to the Associated Press, Petersen offered these women $10,000 each to give up their babies for adoption.

Court documents also stated the women brought into the United States received “little to no prenatal care” while in Utah.

Petersen later defrauded Utah couples, who paid him $40,000 to adopt the babies after he lied to them about the legitimacy of the adoption, the Utah Attorney General’s Office said in a news release.

On Wednesday, Petersen was sentenced for Human Smuggling and Communications Fraud charges and will spend up to 15 years in prison.

His sentence will run concurrently with a five-year prison sentence in Arkansas and a six-year sentence in Arizona.

In total, Petersen will spend 11 to 15 years in prison.

“Utah was proud to lead the way on this investigation,”  Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said. “We were pleased to bring Arizona and Arkansas into our case and get convictions and significant sentences in both those states too.

“This case has been a priority for our office for many years. Today, we feel there is a bit more closure,” Reyes added. “Trying to protect child victims every day is emotionally and physically draining. But, as a team, we are encouraged that a maximum sentence in Utah validates the seriousness of these crimes and the hard work so many have invested in this case.”

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