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Bail reduced for Maricopa County assessor in adoption fraud case

(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

PHOENIX — A Utah judge has reduced the bail for an Arizona county elected official charged in an alleged human smuggling scheme involving pregnant women.

The Deseret News reports that a district judge Friday reduced Maricopa County assessor Paul Petersen’s bail to $150,000 from $3 million.

Petersen, 44, was arrested Oct. 8 and indicted on 32 counts — including human smuggling, sale of a child, conspiracy and fraud.

He faces charges in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah.

Petersen is in federal custody in Arizona, and his Utah attorney, Scott Williams, had said the federal court wouldn’t hold a detention hearing in Arkansas for Petersen until the Utah bail issue is resolved.

Authorities allege women were brought to the U.S. from the Marshall Islands to give birth for adoptions and the Arizona Legislature’s Indigenous Peoples Caucus expressed concern that Petersen may have violated the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

His now-former lawyer has denied the Petersen’s adoption business broke the law.

He previously spent eight years in the office working as the assessor’s representative at the Arizona Legislature and as public information officer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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