The Latest: Adoptions in trafficking scheme won’t be undone

PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on an Arizona county official accused of human smuggling in an adoption fraud scheme (all times local):

1:38 p.m.

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 an Arizona county assessor.

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 Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen.

Authorities say Petersen has for years run an adoption law practice in Mesa.

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.


10:18 a.m.

The assessor of Arizona’s largest county has been indicted in an adoption fraud scheme.

The Arizona Republic reports the Arizona Attorney General’s Office has confirmed the 32-count federal indictment Tuesday against Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen for conspiracy, theft, forgery and 29 counts of fraudulent schemes.

Authorities say Petersen has for years run an adoption law practice in Mesa that involves bringing women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth.

The indictment says Petersen illegally obtained services from Arizona’s Medicaid system for the women by falsely claiming they are Arizona residents.

The indictment says he also violated U.S. law prohibiting citizens of the Marshall Islands from traveling to the U.S. for the purpose of adoptions.

Lynwood Jennet was also named in the indictment, although additional information about Jennet was not immediately available.

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