Paul Petersen, a 45-year-old Arizona adoption lawyer, was sentenced to a minimum of 6 years in prison and a fine of more than $ 100,000 in connection with an adoption scheme involving women from the Marshall Islands.
On Tuesday, Petersen, who spent 12 years smuggling pregnant women into the United States and making huge profits selling their babies, received the first of three sentences expected from a federal judge in the Western District of Arkansas.
Petersen was arrested in October 2019, and at that time he was serving as an appraiser for Maricopa County. He resigned in January 2020 and filed a guilty plea in June.
District Judge Timothy L. Brooks stated: “He turned a time that should be fun for everyone into a baby selling company. The behavior that Mr. Petersen was doing violated public policy. We do not sell babies. It is public policy of the United States.”
For more than a decade, Petersen pursued the scheme by building a network of women who communicated with fellow conspirators in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, USA Today reported. The individual is a point of contact for pregnant women wishing to come to the US, and according to the Washington Post, around 40 women have been brought into the country over the years.
Petersen will contact the women directly, and she will then arrange and cover their travel expenses – obtaining passports and arranging their flights to Arkansas, Arizona, or Utah. There, a number of pregnant Marshall women will share the house he is financing.
During their stay in the US, Petersen falsified documents relating to their stay to secure Medicaid to cover the cost of the child’s birth. He will also confiscate their passports to secure them through the scheme, the Washington Post reported.
Once baby care is secured, Petersen will charge unsuspecting adoptive families up to $ 40,000 for adoption, maintaining that the cash will cover the mother’s expenses. After the adoption, he would pay the women less than $ 10,000 for their role, pay for flights home or to whichever state they wanted, and pocket the rest of the cash.
As well as smuggling pregnant women into the country and keeping them in poor condition, Petersen also violated a 1983 treaty between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the US, which prohibits people from traveling between the two countries for the purpose of adopting.
“The defendant, in this case, broke the law in three states and two countries during his criminal scheme,” said Assistant US Attorney David Clay Fowlkes.
This will not be Petersen’s final court appearance, as he pleaded guilty in Arizona and Utah in June and is awaiting sentence in both states. He has 14 days to appeal the sentence, USA Today reported.
Source: America Now