SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — An estimated ten to twenty pregnant women from the Marshall Islands may still be in Utah, caught up in an alleged international adoption scheme by an Arizona politician.
This week Paul Petersen was arrested and accused of facilitating so-called “baby mills” in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas.
In Mesa, Arizona, Paul Petersen begins his defense against accusations that he sold more than 60 babies to unknowing adoptive families.
“These are proper business practices that they simply disagree within the process,” Petersen’s attorney said in court.
Meanwhile, victim advocates rally around women flown here to have those children.
“We are really preparing for a lot of emergency services,” the Asian Association of Utah’s Andrea Sherman said.
Women lived in so-called “baby mills” until Petersen’s arrest on Tuesday.
The victims were scattered across at least two states.
Eight pregnant Marshallese women - discovered living in a Mesa four-plex.
“It just seemed odd to me,” said a neighbor to FOX13 Utah sister station KNXV.
The woman did not want to be identified but was baffled why so many pregnant women lived in the home often visited by Latter-day Saint members from a church across the street.
“Just thinking about it…I never really saw them holding the babies afterward so I don’t know,” she said.
Utah neighbors raised the same concerns surrounding a West Valley home also owned by Petersen. One man told FOX13, he called police eight times.
Now, the Asian Association of Utah is working with the Attorney General to take care of the victims.
“Being that they are pregnant women, there is a lot of medical services and transportation to those medical services,” Sherman said.
The Utah indictment against Petersen shows the pregnant women had little, if any, prenatal care and the pregnancies were considered “high risk.”
In Utah, victim advocates are working to provide housing for the women, as well as a way back home to the Marshal Islands.