Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen plead guilty in Arkansas this week to the offense of Conspiracy to Smuggle Illegal Aliens for Commercial Advantage and Private Financial Gain.
Petersen, age 44, pleaded guilty to illegally paying pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come to the United States to give up their babies for adoption. He was indicted in October for running a human trafficking operation in three states: Arkansas, Arizona and Utah.
Petersen pleaded guilty last week to charges in Arizona and Utah.
According to the agreement, an investigation into the criminal activities of Petersen has been going on for several years. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement determined that Petersen, among other things, orchestrated the travel of several pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the Western District of Arkansas. The purpose of this travel was for Petersen to arrange adoption of their children by families living in the United States.
Petersen is a licensed attorney who practices law in Arizona, Utah, and Arkansas. Agents discovered that Petersen used credit card accounts that he controlled to purchase airline tickets for several women, all citizens of the RMI who did not have official authorization to enter or reside in the United States, to travel from the RMI to the Western District of Arkansas. This travel arranged and funded by Petersen was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act because the women were all citizens of the RMI and were not eligible for admission into the United States under the terms of the Compact.
According to State of Arkansas Circuit Court records, the families who adopted these children paid Petersen significant sums of money for him to act as a legal facilitator of the adoptions. Finally, also according to the Plea Agreement, witness interviews conducted by the agents investigating Petersen revealed that it was part of the conspiracy that Petersen’s co-conspirators offered the women $10,000 to induce them to travel to the United States and consent to the adoptions.