ARIZONA NEWS

Paul Petersen agrees to plea deal to resolve Arizona fraud case

Jun 18, 2020, 12:12 PM | Updated: Jul 30, 2020, 11:20 am
Paul Petersen (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
Paul Petersen (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX – Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen agreed to a plea deal Thursday to resolve his fraud case in Arizona related to a multistate illegal adoption scheme.

The disgraced elected official pled guilty to one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, one count of forgery and two counts of fraudulent schemes and practices, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said.

Petersen’s sentencing hearing had been scheduled to begin July 31, but a continuation was granted and a status conference was scheduled for Aug. 28. He faces up to 16.5 years in prison, Brnovich said.

He also was ordered to pay $650,000 to Arizona’s Medicaid system, $11,000 to a victim and $18,000 to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for investigative costs.

“This is a huge win and it should send a message to anyone in the state,” Brnovich told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“It doesn’t matter how politically connected you are, how wealthy you are or even if you’re an elected official, the rule of law applies equally to everyone.”

In October of last year, an Arizona grand jury indicted him on 32 charges: one count each of conspiracy, forgery, theft and fraudulent schemes and artifices, and 28 counts of fraudulent schemes and practices.

Lynwood Jennet, a co-conspirator in the case, reached a plea deal in Arizona in December and agreed to cooperate with the state’s prosecution.

The charges Petersen pleaded guilty to included two from the original indictment and two uncovered during further investigation.

Petersen was accused of fraudulently claiming that pregnant women from the Marshall Islands were Arizona residents to get them health care coverage, bilking the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System out of over half a million dollars.

He initially pleaded not guilty to all of the Arizona charges Nov. 5.

Thursday’s plea deal doesn’t affect the 19 federal charges filed against Petersen in Arkansas and 11 charges in Utah related to his alleged baby-selling scheme.

Petersen is accused of illegally recruiting, transporting and paying dozens of pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to adopt out their babies in the United States.

Citizens of the Pacific islands, where Petersen completed a proselytizing mission as a member of The Church of Jesus Christs of Latter-day Saints, have been prohibited from traveling to the U.S. for adoption purposes since 2003.

The case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions in which Petersen allegedly paid Marshallese women to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption.

The women allegedly were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, according to court documents.

After being arrested Oct. 8, Petersen fought to keep his $77,000-a-year county position until he resigned Jan. 7.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors suspended Peterson for 120 days on Oct. 28, but he stepped down before the suspension was lifted.

On Feb. 14, the board picked Gilbert Councilman Eddie Cook to serve out the remainder of Petersen’s term, which runs through this year.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

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

Arizona News

(Phoenix Police Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert issued for 44-year-old woman with cognitive issues last seen in Phoenix

A Silver Alert was issued Thursday for a 44-year-old woman with a cognitive delay who was last seen in Phoenix on Sunday.
17 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Peoria Fire-Medical Department)...
KTAR.com

West Valley elementary school children evaluated after becoming ill following field trip

Twenty elementary school students in Sun City grew ill on Thursday after returning from a field trip, authorities said.
17 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
KTAR.com

1 dead after argument leads to gunfire in downtown Phoenix

A man is dead after an argument escalated into gunfire in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday evening, authorities said.
17 hours ago
(Facebook Photos/State Farm Stadium, WM Phoenix Open)...
KTAR.com

Sheriff Penzone says public’s vigilance is safety tool in security prep for Super Bowl

With high-profile sporting events on the horizon for metro Phoenix, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he's looking to the public to act as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement.
17 hours ago
(Expansive Photo)...
KTAR.com

Flexible workspace company Expansive opens 20,000-square-foot downtown Mesa location

Chicago-based Flexible workspace company Expansive has taken over a 20,000-square-foot location in downtown Mesa.
17 hours ago
(Facebook File Photo/Surprise Police Department)...
KTAR.com

2 teenagers killed in Surprise when vehicle crashes into tree

Two teenagers are dead and two others are in the hospital after their vehicle crashed into a tree in Surprise on Wednesday.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Paul Petersen agrees to plea deal to resolve Arizona fraud case