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Former AZ politician pleads guilty in adoption fraud case in Utah

Posted at 12:19 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 19:54:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A former Arizona politician accused of human smuggling in an adoption scheme pleaded guilty Friday to some of the charges filed against him in Utah last year.

Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen pleaded guilty to three third-degree felony counts of human smuggling and one second-degree felony count of communications fraud.

As part of a plea arrangement, three counts of sale of a child, two counts of communications fraud, one count of human smuggling and one count of pattern of unlawful activity were dismissed.

In Utah, Petersen was accused of transporting more than 40 pregnant women to Utah to give up their babies for adoption over a period of three years. He was arrested on October 8, 2019.

"Petersen’s illegal adoption scheme exploited highly vulnerable groups in two countries—the birth mothers and families in the Marshall Islands and the adoptive parents here in Utah," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement.

Authorities conducted a raid in the Phoenix area on his home and businesses linked to him, according to FOX 13's sister station in Arizona. He was also facing criminal charges in Phoenix, and he pleaded guilty to some of those charges Thursday.