GOP Official Accused Of Selling Babies Is Finally Suspended From Gov’t Job
An Arizona elected official charged with operating a human-smuggling ring earlier this month was finally suspended on Monday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen received a 120-day suspension, though the county Board of Supervisors lacks authority to remove him from office permanently.
The Republican was arrested on October 8 related to his adoption business, which prosecutors allege was a “scheme that brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and then paid them to give up their children for adoption.”
Petersen faces a mix of state and federal charges in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah, including human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering, The Tribune reported — all tied to the scheme he ran over a period of three years, resulting in about 75 adoptions.
According to prosecutors, Petersen offered many women $10,000 to put their babies up for adoption and covered their travel expenses in the days or months leading up to their due dates.
Authorities also allege that the pregnant women were denied proper prenatal care and often lived in cramped quarters at Petersen’s properties.
Petersen served a two-year mission to the Marshall Islands, located in the eastern Pacific, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his fluency in Marshallese reportedly led to recruitment by an adoption agency while Petersen attended law school.
The Board of Supervisors cited “his absence from the office during his incarceration and limited access to phone and email” in justifying Petersen’s suspension, which Arizona law allows for “neglect of duty.”
Petersen has maintained his innocence and refused to step down amid his legal troubles. His attorney, Kurt Altman, said Petersen will fight to keep his job and indicated his belief that the law allowing elected officials to be suspended might be unconstitutional.