ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona official pleads not guilty in Arkansas in human trafficking case

Oct 29, 2019, 4:30 PM
Paul Petersen (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
Paul Petersen (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX – The Maricopa County elected official accused of human trafficking through an adoption scheme pleaded not guilty to federal charges in Arkansas on Tuesday.

After entering his plea in Fayetteville, Assessor Paul Petersen was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to wear an ankle monitor.

His trial in Arkansas on human smuggling and adoption fraud charges was set for Dec. 9.

He’d been in custody since his Oct. 8 arrest in Arizona following his indictment on 32 counts in three states, including sale of a child, conspiracy and fraud.

He also faces charges in Arizona and Utah.

The case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions, authorities said, with about 30 adoptions pending.

Petersen is accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption. The women were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, court documents say.

Petersen charged families $25,000 to $40,000 per adoption, prosecutors said.

He also is 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’s attorney has said prosecutors have miscast his client as a human smuggler.

A day before he entered the plea, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to suspend Petersen without pay from his $77,000-a-year job for 120 days, the maximum allowable under state law.

He is allowed to appeal the suspension.

County auditors found hundreds documents related to Petersen’s adoption business on his county-issued computer, a fact cited by the board in its decision to suspend him for neglect of duty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo, File/Phoenix Police Department)...
KTAR.com

2 dead, 1 in critical condition after shooting at west Phoenix residence

Two people died and one person was taken to the hospital in critical condition after a shooting Tuesday at a west Phoenix residence, authorities said. 
17 hours ago
(Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix hits 80 degrees for most days in November history

It's no triple digits, but a warm November in Phoenix was punctuated with a new heat record set on Tuesday.
17 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Cesar Chavez High School)...
KTAR.com

15-year-old boy arrested in shooting after gun sale gone wrong at Phoenix high school

A 15-year-old boy was arrested Tuesday in the shooting of a 16-year-old boy following a gun sale gone wrong at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix, police said.
17 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Union High School District)...
Jim Sharpe

How about actual ‘safe spaces’ for Phoenix Union students?

Following a Monday shooting at Cesar Chavez High School, KTAR News host Jim Sharpe asks if school resource officers should have a renewed presence at Phoenix Union High School District.
17 hours ago
Adele cheers on the Phoenix Suns during the NBA Finals at Footprint Center on July 17, 2021. (Photo...
Kevin Stone

2022 Vegas residency brings Adele within driving distance of Phoenix fans

Adele has no plans to tour on the heels of her latest smash album, but the reigning queen of musical heartbreak is going easy on Valley daydreamers willing to make the trip to Las Vegas.
17 hours ago
(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)...
KTAR.com

Arizona Lottery hits jackpot with $1.4B in ticket sales; winners get back $978M

Arizona cashed in on the lottery in a big way with a record $1.4 billion in ticket sales for fiscal year 2021, the state agency said Monday.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
PNC BANK

How your family can explore the Musical Instrument Museum

Whether you want to spend a day with family, do crafts with kids at home, or have an adult night out, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has options. As the world’s only global musical instrument museum, MIM offers interactive and immersive exhibits to foster an appreciation of different cultures and their instruments. “A visit […]
...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
...
PNC Bank

How one organization supports early childhood literacy for the most vulnerable

Nearly two out of every three children in low-income communities don’t own a single children’s book, a fact that ultimately could have profound impacts even before entering kindergarten, according to Arizona nonprofit Southwest Human Development.
Arizona official pleads not guilty in Arkansas in human trafficking case