PHOENIX — Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen pleaded guilty to charges he is facing in Arizona relating to his allegedly fraudulent adoption business.
Petersen entered a guilty plea to multiple felony counts of fraudulent schemes and practices on Thursday: Three counts of fraudulent schemes and practices and one count of forgery.
He will be ordered to pay $650,000 to AHCCCS, $11,000 to an uncharged victim and $18,000 to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for investigative costs.
He faced more than 30 counts in Arizona. Most of those were dropped as part of the plea agreement.
“While Paul Petersen enjoyed a position of respect and trust in the community, he manipulated adoptive families and bilked Arizona taxpayers for his own profit,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
“Mr. Petersen must now answer for his crimes. It doesn’t matter if you’re politically connected, wealthy, or an elected official, the rule of law applies equally to everyone.”
A sentencing hearing for Petersen has not been scheduled yet. Petersen faces between three and 12.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections in his first case and six months to four years in prison for the second case.
Petersen's co-defendant Lynwood Jannet pleaded guilty in December for her involvement in the adoption fraud scheme. She faces between two and four years in the Arizona Department of Corrections. A sentencing hearing for Jennet is scheduled for August 21, 2020 at 11 a.m.
Here is a quick guide to the case that has spanned across months and spread across state lines.
Petersen was arrested in October after officials across three states say he was running an illegal international adoption scheme for years.
The scheme was allegedly centered around women from the Marshall Islands.
In Arizona, Petersen was also accused of claiming the women were Arizona residents so they could obtain state benefits.
Petersen would allegedly pay each pregnant woman up to $10,000 to put their children up for adoption. He would then allegedly charge adoptive families $30,000 to $40,000 per child.
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