GOP Politician Resigns Following Child Trafficking Indictment
Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen resigned Tuesday months after being charged with organizing a human smuggling operation that paid pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to give up their babies in the U.S., according to NBC News.
The elected official in metro Phoenix was suspended and pressured to resign since his arrest almost three months ago. The county’s governing board voted in late December to begin the process of removing Petersen.
He is accused of illegally paying women from the Pacific island nation to come to the U.S. to give up their newly born children in at least 70 adoption cases in Arizona, Utah, and Arkansas over three years.
The Republican said county officials and news organizations have vilified him and presumed his guilt, while being charged with human smuggling in Utah and Arkansas as well as defrauding Arizona’s Medicaid system of $800,000 by submitting false applications for the women to receive state-funded health care coverage.
According to authorities, the women who went to Utah received little to no prenatal care. Petersen and his associates allegedly took passports from the pregnant women to assert more control over them.
His adoption business was discovered on his government laptop, which pushed the board to remove him. Content recovered on the laptop included text messages of pregnant women being threatened when they changed their minds about giving up their babies.
Lynwood Jennet was accused of helping Petersen in the scheme and pleaded guilty last month in Arizona. She has agreed to testify against Petersen.