Arizona official accused in human smuggling scheme now in federal custody

This undated photo shows County Assessor Paul Petersen, who has been indicted in an adoption fraud case. Petersen is accused of arranging for dozens of pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come to the U.S. to give their children up for adoption. Utah also has charged him with 11 felony counts, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. | Photo courtesy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office via The Associated Press, St. George News

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona elected official facing human smuggling charges over an adoption scheme is in federal custody.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix said Friday that County Assessor Paul Petersen was no longer in their jail.

It was not immediately known where he was transferred.

Petersen is accused of running an adoption scheme that involved illegally bringing pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to give birth.

He allegedly charged families $25,000-$40,000 per adoption and defrauded Arizona’s Medicaid system.

Prosecutors in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas have all filed charges that include sale of a child, fraud, forgery, money laundering and human smuggling.

Petersen’s attorney says he engaged in “proper business practices.”

County officials have called on Petersen to resign.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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