Adoptions In Arizona Trafficking Scheme Won't Be Undone

Evarado Alatorre
Octubre 13, 2019

An indictment from the U.S. District Court for Western Arkansas outlined an immigration scheme whereby pregnant mothers from the Republic of the Marshall Islands were paid to fly to the United States, hide their pregnancies, and put their babies up for adoption in the U.S.

An Arizona official is facing charges in three separate states after authorities say he operated a massive adoption scheme that brought more than 40 pregnant women to the United States from the Marshall Islands to give up their babies in exchange for money.

In granting the injunction, Martin appointed Fayetteville attorney Andrea McCurdy to serve as an advocate representing all expecting biological mothers in Arkansas who were in the process of adoption with Petersen.

Paul Petersen, the Maricopa County Assessor and an adoption lawyer practicing in Mesa, is now facing dozens of charges in three states connected to the alleged smuggling ring that spanned three years and involved 75 adoptions, The Associated Press reports. Perez said of Petersen and the allegations against him.

Authorities also spoke to several adoptive parents. Petersen also faces charges for related offenses in Arkansas and Utah.

"I thought there's no way that this guy is not legitimate", she said.

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Arkansas has one the largest concentrations of Marshallese immigrants in the USA and the women would then be flown there or back to the Marshall Islands after giving birth, authorities said.

"Many of these mothers described their ordeal as being treated like property", Kees said.

Court documents allege that Petersen charged adoptive families up to $40,000 per child, raking in about $2.7 million in less than two years.

The case came to light in October 2017 when a state investigator received a tip from the Utah Attorney General's Human Trafficking tip line. An Arizona juvenile court judge in 2016 denied a couple's request to adopt a child born to a Marshallese woman because he feared the arrangement set up by Petersen had violated that country's law. Staff at several hospitals in the Salt Lake City area would eventually report an "influx" of women from the Marshall Islands giving birth and putting their babies up for adoption, often accompanied by the same woman.

An agreement between the United States and the Marshall Islands generally bans Marshallese people from traveling to the United States for adoptions. A court of appeals reversed the decision, saying no Marshallese approval was necessary.

According to the Attorney General's Office, the raids are related to a multi-state investigation, arrest and criminal indictment involving Petersen and another person, Lynwood Jennet. "It is also worth repeating that despite what some may say to keep women in a specific adoption plan, no one is going to jail for getting help".

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