FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Paul Petersen, the man who pleaded guilty to running an illegal adoption scheme in three states including Arkansas will learn his fate Tuesday. He will be sentenced in a Fayetteville Federal courtroom. The proceedings will take place virtually with Petersen in Arizona. The sentencing is expected to take about two and half hours.
The former attorney pleaded guilty, in June, to one count of human trafficking. He illegally paid women of the Marshal Islands to come to the U.S. and give up their babies for adoptions while he profited financially from the scheme.
Actions, Michaela Montie, the Executive Director of Shared Beginnings, a local adoption agency said has torn dozens of families apart. Shared Beginnings has been an advocate for the victims in this case, helping dozens of women. She said they were sold lies and treated inhumanely.
“We’ve had women we were brought here to De Queen Arkansas, who were locked in basements, we’ve had ones that were sent home from the hospital and nearly hemorrhage to death. So these women were not treated humanely,” said Montie.
Montie said her team has been in contact with well over 100 women who said they were solicited or coerced into giving up their babies. She expects more women to come forward after the sentencing Tuesday.
Monti said the organizations’ goal is to give the women back their power, let them know they have rights, choices and to help them heal from all of this.
JadieAnn Edwin, a native from the Marshal Islands, is a care coordinator and translator. She works closely with the women impacted and said this really hits home for her.
“As a Marshallese woman, mother and a sister, I feel angry. I don’t know how many years they will give him but at least it’s something that people are realizing that humans trafficking is real and is happening,” said Edwin.
Through the trafficking victim assistance program, the organization is helping these women through case management support, counseling, providing food and housing. The organization is also working on some legislative reform to give victims of human trafficking more protections.
Tuesday morning, some of the women will be traveling to De Queen, to visit the home where they were kept during this ordeal as part of the healing process.
Montie said no amount of prison time will be enough but these women will be glad to see him behind bars.
Petersen faces up to 10 years in prison for his charges in Arkansas. He’s facing more time for his convictions in Utah and Arizona. Those hearings are scheduled in January.