Ex-County Assessor Paul Petersen inmate at El Paso prison; ran illegal adoption scheme

Northwest Arkansas News

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The man guilty of running an illegal adoption scheme is now an inmate at La Tuna FCI prison in El Paso, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Paul Petersen entered the Texas facility late Thursday, January 21.

Petersen was sentenced in December to 6.5 years in Arkansas by U.S. Western District Judge Timothy Brooks to one count of human trafficking. Initially, the former attorney faced 19 charges involving trafficking and fraud, but that changed due to a plea deal made on June 24, 2020.

Paul Petersen booked into the Washington County Jail, 2019. | Courtesy: Washington County Jail

During the sentencing, Judge Brooks described Petersen as someone who led a double life. “The good Mr. Petersen and the bad Mr. Petersen.” The judge also called his adoption business a “side hustle,” because Petersen was an elected official in Arizona earning more than $70,000 a year and had a law practice, while profiting off an illegal adoption scheme.

Prosecutors said Petersen illegally paid women from the Marshall Islands to give up their babies for adoption. Petersen’s “adoption scheme” violated a 1983 Compact of Free Association with the United States, according to the court.

In June 2020, Petersen pleaded guilty to human smuggling and fraud in Arizona and Utah.

Paul Petersen, 45, former Arizona Maricopa County tax assessor, sentencing hearing, Fayetteville, AR. Sketch by John Kushmaul. 12/1/2020.

Regarding the Arkansas sentence, Petersen’s lawyers have filed notice that they plan to challenge it. They have until mid-February to file a brief.


  • Located in El Paso, Texas
  • Low security federal correctional institution with a minimum security satellite camp
  • 742 male inmates; 603 at FCI, 139 at the Camp

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