Arizona assessor charged with illegally selling children in adoption scheme

by Amanda Push

Black market adoption schemes were a deplorably large issue in the 1950s, but it turns out there’s still plenty of (illegal) baby selling going on in the United States, at least in Arizona.

According to the Associated Press, Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, an elected official in Arizona, was doing just that. Petersen, a Republican and adoption attorney, was suspended from his elected position Oct. 28 after he was federally charged with running a human smuggling scheme that spanned across at least three states.

Petersen allegedly paid pregnant women to travel from the Marshall Islands to give birth in the United States and then give up their children for adoption. Unsurprisingly, according to court documents, Petersen wasn’t exactly finding these women top-shelf medical care. Instead, they were squeezed into living spaces owned or rented by Petersen. Some of the women allegedly received little to no prenatal care.

Petersen, sticking true to the colors of a white man who got caught taking advantage of his privilege, is refusing to resign from his elected position and, unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors, who voted unanimously to place him on unpaid suspension for 120 days, is unable to remove him.

According to the county’s Facebook page, the motion states:

“Mr. Petersen’s failure to meaningfully oversee the operations of his office for an extended period and repeated misuse of county resources to conduct his private law practice constitutes neglect of duty.”

“The allegations against him have nothing to do with the operation of the County Assessor’s Office, which has not missed a beat during this trying time for Paul and his family,” Petersen’s attorney, Kurt Altman, said in a statement.

Though Petersen is in federal custody, he is set on salvaging his $77,000-a-year position to which he was elected in 2016. The county assessor has a long road ahead of him, however, Petersen was indicted in federal court in Arkansas and charged in Arizona and Utah for human smuggling, the sale of a child, fraud, forgery, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to AP, the case took place across a span of three years including 75 adoptions with 30 adoptions still pending.

Families paid Petersen $25,000 to $40,000 per kiddo. No word on how much Petersen was paying the women from the Marshall Islands. Going to go ahead and assume it was nowhere near what Petersen was lining his pockets with.

Amanda Push


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