Investigators also found eight pregnant women from the Marshall Islands in raids of his properties outside Phoenix, and several more are waiting to give birth in Utah, authorities said.
A lawyer who is also the assessor for Maricopa County, Arizona, is facing charges in three states for allegedly operating an illegal adoption scheme involving pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Fayetteville attorney Andrea McCurdy is now representing all the birth mothers.
Petersen's lawyer said at a court appearance in Arizona that Petersen was engaged in proper business practices.
Paul Petersen was elected Maricopa County Assessor in Arizona.More news: Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks With Draft Stakes Set For WWE RAW
The Marshall Islands sit between the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines and belong to a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Petersen's arraignment on his Arkansas charges is set for October 29 in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.
She was told it had been used as a rental, and since purchasing it she has found trash like dirty diapers in the bushes, she said.
"Many of these mothers described their ordeal as being treated like property", Kees said.More news: Toyota unveils revamped hydrogen sedan to take on Tesla
The U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Arkansas set up an email address for victims affected by Petersen's alleged scheme. the identity of involved parties and information received will be strictly confidential. "Make no mistake: this case is the purest form of human trafficking". Prosecutors say he would then charge families $25,000-$40,000 per adoption, with court documents showing that two years of fees saw the racket bring in around $2.7 million in revenue. 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 addition, one of the charges states the couple attempted to deceive the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System by applying for benefits for these women by stating they were Arizona residents. Under the current agreement, citizens of the Marshall Islands are able to come to the United States without a visa to work but are not allowed to travel to the United States for an adoption without obtaining a special visa.
The injunction also ordered Megan Wolfe, described in court documents as Petersen's paralegal, to stop planning or placing a child for adoption, or offering legal advice.
A Rogers woman has also established a non-profit to help birth mothers navigate the adoption process after adopting her son, who is Marshallese, six years ago. A court of appeals reversed the decision, saying no Marshallese approval was necessary.More news: Daniil Medvedev sees off Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach Shanghai Masters final
The women were housed in homes Petersen owned and leased, a Utah Attorney General's Office arrest warrant affidavit obtained by PEOPLE states. "No one's going to go back and redo adoptions or any of that kind of stuff", says Arizona's attorney general.