Official pleads guilty to human smuggling in adoption scheme in Utah with ties to NWA

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former Arizona politician has pleaded guilty in Utah to human smuggling charges in an illegal adoption scheme that stretched across three states and involved women from the Marshall Islands.

Paul Petersen is a Republican who served as county assessor in metro Phoenix. The Friday pleas come after he struck an agreement with Arizona prosecutors on state Medicaid-fraud charges.

A plea is expected next week in Arkansas.

Petersen was accused of illegally paying women from the Pacific island nation to give up their babies in at least 70 adoption cases over three years.

“I’m glad to see that Mr. Petersen has decided to take responsibility for his conduct that has hurt so many, ” Josh Bryant a local Northwest Arkansas attorney who’s serving as lead counsel on the civil suit filed against Paul Petersen said. “While I believe that conduct is indicative of the fact that comprehensive adoption reform is necessary, knowing that one of those most notorious for using adoption to traffic children will never do so again is a win for Arkansas.”

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