Judge Grants Injunction Against Arizona Attorney In Marshallese Adoption Scheme

  • Judge Grants Injunction Against Arizona Attorney In Marshallese Adoption Scheme

Judge Grants Injunction Against Arizona Attorney In Marshallese Adoption Scheme

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

An Arkansas judge says his court will decide individual outcomes in 19 adoption cases involving an Arizona official accused of human smuggling.

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.

Petersen's attorney, Matthew Long, defended his client's actions during a Tuesday court hearing in Phoenix as "proper business practices" and said they disagreed with the allegations.

Paul Petersen, a Republican assessor whose private-sector job was as an adoption attorney, was charged in Utah, Arizona, and Arkansas with counts including fraud, forgery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, human smuggling, and sale of a child.

Authorities have also said Petersen violated the treaty agreement between the US and the Marshall Islands.

Petersen also faces similar charges in Arizona and Arkansas.

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

Michaela Montie said she created Shared Beginnings to "offer our services and support to expecting mothers who don't have anywhere to turn or adoptive parents who don't know what to do with this news".

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.

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.

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

One adoptive couple told police they visited a residence in West Valley City that housed at least 15 pregnant women - a "baby mill" that the couple claimed "just did not seem right", according to charging documents cited by the newspaper.

Authorities will not work to "unwind" any of the adoptions, which violated a compact banning Marshallese residents from traveling to the United States for adoptions without a special visa, Reyes said.

The injunction also ordered Megan Wolfe, described in court documents as Petersen's paralegal, to stop planning or placing a child for adoption, or offering legal advice.

After the birth of the child, Petersen and Jennet would facilitate travel for the women to leave Arizona, the indictment says.

Authorities do not believe the women were misled into believing their children might be returned at some point.

The women were housed in homes Petersen owned and leased, a Utah Attorney General's Office arrest warrant affidavit obtained by PEOPLE states.

"No one's going to go back and redo adoptions or any of that kind of stuff", Brnovich said.