Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen has been arrested and  indicted in three states (on state and federal charges) in connection to a private adoption ring he and his associates had created over the last 15 years by bringing pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States and putting their children up for adoption without having to utilize a placement agency as an intermediary.

Charged in Arizona, Utah, and Arkansas, Peterson, according to AZ Central, is accused of:

  • Fraudulently using the State Medicaid system for nonresidents (Arizona).
  • Violating the “compact” between the Marshall Islands and the United States with regards to putting children up for adoption with a special visa (those were not obtained).
  • “The commercialization of children” (Utah)
  • “Conspiracy to smuggle women for private financial gain, wire fraud, and conspiracy to money laundering and visa fraud” (Arkansas)

If found guilty on all charges in all three states, he and his associates could be sentenced to several centuries in prison. 

Fortunately for the children and their adopted parents, no one is interested in voiding any of the adoptions Mr. Petersen and his associates arranged.

Elected to the Maricopa County Assessor Position in 2014 and reelected in 2016, Mr. Petersen has not yet announced his resignation despite calls to do so.

He would have been running for another four-year term against Democrat Aaron Connor in the 2020 elections.

Mr. Connor’s campaign issued a press release on October 9, 2019, stating that:

“Aaron Connor Candidate for Maricopa County Assessor calls for trust and accountability following the criminal indictment of the incumbent Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen…..With the recent revelations of the Republican Assessor’s criminal indictment, Connor is more than ready to earn the trust and votes of Maricopa County Residents in November 2020. ” 

Reaction from Maricopa County Democrats running for County Attorney has been swift.

Julie Gunnigle

“The charges against Paul Petersen are shocking — his alleged exploitation of Marshallese women for personal gain is a stain on Maricopa County. These allegations indicate that Petersen while serving as County Assessor, violated a code of ethics in the actions taken by his personal law firm. The role of a County Assessor should be an all-encompassing one, not a role to be served in conjunction with a personal business. Beyond this, I am appalled by the conduct alleged in the indictment. Fraud and human trafficking do not align with the values of our community.”

“These indictments continue the saga of gross public corruption coming out of Maricopa County. We need to demand better from all of our elected officials. At this point, it is apparent that ethical violations and corruption pervade Maricopa County. In 2020, it will be more important than ever to elect officials who are dedicated to serving the people, not themselves. We can start by electing a County Attorney who cracks down on public corruption while going above and beyond to protect vulnerable populations from being exploited or targeted. We need to make a change and we need our representatives to be tough, smart, and fair — not abusive, exploitative and criminal.”

Robert J McWhirter

“I have happily been the lawyer for several adoptions, including five of my wonderful nephews and nieces.”  

“Mr. Peterson is presumed innocent until proven guilty – Any prosecutor who doesn’t appreciate that is unpatriotic and should not be in the job.”

“But that been said, these charges are serious and the admission on Mr. Peterson’s own website that he receives $40,000 per adoption is shocking.  To get some perspective, the Arizona Department of Economic Security pays lawyers a modest fee of $2,000 to handle adoptions.  I have been honored to handle these adoptions, which typically involved a family member adopting the child of another family member who is unfit or incapacitated.”

“Adoption is supposed to make people whole, provide a home for a child, and create families.  Mr. Peterson’s schemes appear to have prayed on our human desire to do good things like facilitate adoptions and provide Medicaid for people in need.  Even leaving aside the legally, where is the moral compass?”

“Adoption is about finding the best home possible for a child. Just as Mr. Peterson appears to have lost his way on this, so too did Maricopa County (and newest Arizona Supreme Court Justice) Bill Montgomery.  Mr. Montgomery refused to have his office participate in any adoptions to same-sex couples. This requires the County attorney to handle adoptions for people who cannot afford them because we all have an interest in getting children out of foster care and into loving homes.  But Mr. Montgomery had to be sued to do his job because of his prejudice against same-sex couples and fallacious notions about what children need.”

“When I’m County attorney this will not happen.”

Ryan Tait

“These allegations, if they are true, reveal a shocking abuse of trust, both of the public Mr. Peterson was supposed to serve and the victims left in the wake of what appear to be selfish, greed-fueled acts. My heart goes out to the vulnerable women and children impacted and to any families who may have innocently relied on him to facilitate their adoption. I trust that the law enforcement and prosecuting agencies involved will work diligently to assure the citizens of Arizona that acts of public corruption are met with appropriate consequences and that nobody is above the law.” 

Steven Slugocki, the Maricopa County Democratic Party Chair, issued a statement, writing that:

“The Arizona GOP considers itself the ‘party of family values.’ Well tonight, we have found out that they are even in the family making business…..His (Petersen’s) scheme was immoral and unethical….Not only was Paul Petersen involved in alleged illegal activity, but he was doing so on the taxpayer’s dime. Remember this man is part of the same party that puts children in cages and separates families. At the same time, they’re selling children from out of the country! It’s time for a change…”

Paul Peterson can not continue his position as Maricopa County Assessor.

Governor Doug Ducey called for Mr. Petersen to step down.

Remaining would be untenable and a distraction for everyone seeking to do the people’s business in the Assessors Office.

Republican Party Leaders need to persuade him that remaining in his post is not good for the county or the people.

There are many aspiring Republican Public Servants who can ably fill the void at the Assessors office after Petersen leaves.

There has to be at least one that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors can find and install until January 2021.

There has to be.

Featured Image from