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Maricopa County looking for way to legally oust indicted assessor

Paul D. Petersen (Facebook Photo/Maricopa County Assessor's Office)

PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is looking for a way to legally oust the elected official who was indicted last week in a human trafficking case.

During an executive session Monday, the board received legal advice on the matter of Paul Petersen, who was arrested Oct. 8 and charged with a human smuggling and a slew of other counts.

“They’re going to go back and do some more looking at the law and what can possibly be done if Assessor Petersen chooses not to resign his position,” board spokesman Fields Moseley told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The board also decided to ask County Auditor Mike McGee to investigate whether Petersen’s work at his law practice, which he allegedly used to run an adoption fraud scheme involving pregnant women from the Marshall Islands, affected his duties as assessor.

“Everyone agreed that this is a good thing to do just to make sure that nothing was going on that we haven’t been able to see so far,” Moseley said.

On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors issued a statement calling for Petersen to resign from his position.

“Petersen’s prompt resignation will ensure his legal issues don’t distract him from leading the County Assessor’s Office,” the board said.

That statement came two days after Petersen was charged with 32 counts, included human smuggling, sale of a child, conspiracy and fraud, for activity in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas.

Petersen and a co-conspirator were accused of recruiting, transporting and offering to pay more than 40 pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to adopt out their babies in the United States between November 2015 and May 2019.

They also are accused of claiming the women were Arizona residents on paperwork to get them state-funded health care coverage, bilking Arizona’s Medicaid system out of more than $800,000.

Petersen, who was elected to his second term as assessor in 2018, was moved into federal custody Friday.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore contributed to this report.

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