Maricopa County Assessor Petersen accused of adoption fraud

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen. [Photo from the Maricopa County Assessor's Office]

MESA — The home of Maricopa County Assessor Paul D. Petersen was raided by law enforcement officers Tuesday evening in connection with allegations of black market adoptions. An adoption business and law office run by Petersen were also raided.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the raids are related to a multi-state investigation, arrest, and criminal indictment involving Petersen and “adoption fraud.”

According to investigative reporters with Honolulu Civil Beat:

Petersen arranges for the plane tickets for pregnant women traveling some 5,000 miles from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to give up their children for adoption. He covers their expenses while they live in his house in West Valley City.

At any one time, 10 or more pregnant women live in the house, one of the residents told a Civil Beat reporter who visited recently.

A treaty known as the Compact of Free Association bars Marshallese women intending to place a child for adoption from traveling to the U.S. without special permission. To control unregulated black market adoptions — which were rampant in the 1990s — the remote Pacific nation created a government agency to oversee international placements of children.

The treaty provision and the new law were put in place in the early 2000s to stop the exploitation of pregnant women who had little understanding of the consequences of adoption in the U.S. – that there would be no guarantee of continued contact with an adopted child, for instance, or expectation that a child would return at the age of 18.

Authorities have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at approximately 11 a.m.

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