(NBC News) — An Arizona government official has been arrested on accusations he led an illegal adoption scheme spread across several states.
Prosecutors in Arizona and Utah say Arizona’s Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen led the adoption agency. He was arrested in California Tuesday.
Petersen has been indicted for 11 felonies including human smuggling and sale of a child.
“It is alleged that Mr. Petersen would charge about $35,000 for you to adopt a child from his agency,” Colonel Frank Milstead, director of Arizona’s Department of Public Safety, explained. “He would pay these Marshallese women around $10,000 on some occasions, but then site in money off the top of that for healthcare, housing, transportation and other things.”
Petersen allegedly brought more than 40 pregnant women from the Marshall Islands into utah over the past three years as part of the operation.
The owners of a West Valley City, Utah home where Petersen allegedly housed dozens of pregnant women say they discovered some unusual details when they moved into the home.
“There used to be a door here and that was padlocked shut,” Alanna Mabey said as she showed padlocks they found on several doors when they moved into the home. “This padlock here was on the door and we cut that off.”
She said there was also an unusual square opening between two rooms in the basement where one of the doors had a padlock on it.
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