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Court docs: Arizona attorney accused of running illegal adoption scheme sued clients for more than $12K

Paul Petersen sued a couple who reportedly had trouble paying for an adoption, saying they owed $12,000 plus interest at a rate of 15% per year.

MESA, Ariz. — Editor's note: The above video has fast facts on Paul Petersen's arrest. 

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen faces dozens of charges in three states related to an international adoption fraud scheme that involved smuggling pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific. 

His clients would pay $30,000 to $40,000 to adopt a child through his firm, according to the law office's website. A lawsuit from 2016 shows there was little leniency for someone who had trouble paying their bill. 

According to the court paperwork, Petersen sued a married couple for breach of contract because they still owed him $12,000 for an adoption.

RELATED: Court docs: Paul Petersen brought pregnant Marshallese women to Arizona and charged $35,000 for adoptions

In the lawsuit, Petersen said the couple would also owe interest at the rate of 15% stipulated in the contract they signed.

Responding to the lawsuit, the couple said they had been in financial distress because of issues with the husband’s pay. They said they talked to Petersen about their problems and made verbal arrangements to pay smaller amounts toward the $12,000 they owed.  

The last payment they made before Petersen filed the lawsuit in January 2016 was $8,000 in April 2015, the response says.

The couple also claimed they signed a contract when the adoption was finalized, but they never received a copy of the signed contract or any sort of record of the cost of the adoption.

RELATED: Paul Petersen indictment and arrest: quick facts

An application for the deferral of court costs shows the couple receives food stamps and cares for five children on a gross income of about $48,750 per year.

The court ruled that the couple had to pay nearly $15,000 to cover the original amount they owed plus interest accrued since the previous year. They were also ordered to pay for Petersen’s attorney fees and court costs.

The couple would also have to continue paying the 15% interest on the $12,000 they owed along with a 4.5% yearly interest on the court costs and attorney fees yearly until they could pay the judgment in full.  

RELATED: These are the charges against Paul Petersen, accused of running illegal adoption scheme involving Marshallese women