SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — One day after pleading guilty to multiple felony counts in Arizona, former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen has pleaded guilty to four felony charges in Utah.
On a Friday video conference with a judge in Salt Lake City, Petersen pleaded guilty to three counts of felony human smuggling and one count of felony communications fraud relating to an alleged illegal international adoption scheme.
In accordance with the plea agreement in Utah, the state dismissed seven additional felony charges (felony pattern of unlawful activity, felony human smuggling, two counts of felony communications fraud and three felony counts for sale of a child).
Petersen was arrested in October after officials across three states (Arizona, Utah, Arkansas) say he was running an illegal international adoption scheme for years.
The scheme was allegedly centered around women from the Marshall Islands.
The judge in Utah said, the sentence for each count of human smuggling (3rd-degree felony) ranges from 0-5 years. The sentence for communications fraud (2nd-degree felony) ranges from 1-15 years.
Furthermore, Petersen will agree to pay $50,000 to the Utah attorney general's office for the cost of investigating and prosecuting the case. Petersen will also submit a request for resignation from the Utah State Bar within 30 days of sentencing and agrees to cease all adoption practices for the duration of the court's jurisdiction over him.
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.
Petersen eventually resigned from his position as Maricopa County assessor and Eddie Cook was appointed to replace him.
On Thursday in Arizona, Petersen pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulent schemes and artifices (a class 2 felony), two counts of fraudulent schemes and practices (a class 5 felony) and forgery (a class 4 felony).
Petersen is scheduled to enter guilty pleas in Arkansas next week.
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