U.S. Official Charged with Human Smuggling After Bringing More Than 40 Pregnant Women into Country

An Arizona elected official is facing dozens of charges in three states in connection with a multimillion-dollar adoption scheme in which he allegedly smuggled more than 40 women into the U.S. from the Marshall Islands, promising them money in exchange for their babies.

Authorities believe Paul Peterson, an adoption lawyer and Maricopa County Assessor was the head of a smuggling ring that allegedly recruited Marshallese women “and offered a significant amount of money to place their babies for adoption in Utah,” state Attorney General Sean Reyes told reporters Wednesday.

Peterson is charged with 11 second and third-degree felonies in Utah, including human smuggling, sale of a child, communications fraud and pattern of unlawful activity, Reyes said. . .

Reyes said his office’s investigation began after investigators got a call to a human-trafficking tip line in October 2017. Staff at several hospitals in the Salt Lake City area would eventually report an “influx” of women from the Marshall Islands giving birth and putting their babies up for adoption, often accompanied by the same woman.

In Arizona, Peterson was indicted on 32 charges including theft, fraud and forgery. Prosecutors there say the scheme defrauded Arizona’s Medicaid system of $800,000 because the women had no intention of remaining in the state when they applied for benefits. (Read more from “U.S. Official Charged with Human Smuggling After Bringing More Than 40 Pregnant Women into Country” HERE)

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