ALL NEWS

Suspension sought for politician in human trafficking case

Oct 24, 2019, 7:35 AM
arizona adoption scheme utah...
FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows County Assessor Paul Petersen, who has been indicted in an adoption fraud case. Utah also has charged him with 11 felony counts, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — The governing board in Arizona’s most populous county took the first step Wednesday toward suspending an elected official accused of running a human smuggling scheme involving pregnant women from the Marshall Islands who were brought to the U.S. to give birth for adoptions.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to notify Assessor Paul Petersen that it plans a public meeting next week to consider suspending him without pay for up to 120 days.

Board members lack the authority to permanently remove Petersen from his office that determines the value of properties for tax purposes in Phoenix and its suburbs.

He was arrested last week and is in federal custody and has refused to resign. Arizona law allows him to be suspended for “neglect of duty” if he’s first given at least five days’ notice.

The board on Wednesday said Petersen is neglecting his duties because he’s not physically present in the office and has extremely limited access while in detention to telephone and email. The board also said that an audit of his office that began after his arrest found files from his adoption business on his county computer.

County employees are prohibited from using their computers for personal business “and we would hope that our countywide elected officials would live up to that,” said Bill Gates, the Board of Supervisors’ Republican chairman.

Petersen illegally paid women from the Marshall Islands to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption, authorities have said.

The women were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, the authorities have said in court documents.

He faces charges in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah including human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Petersen is a Republican elected most recently in 2016. His lawyer, Kurt Altman, said Petersen will fight to keep his job if the Board of Supervisors votes to suspend him during a meeting scheduled for Monday.

Petersen is allowed by law to request a hearing to defend himself. Altman also said the law allowing elected officials to be suspended may be unconstitutional.

“I think they’re acting premature,” Altman said. “I think they’re overstepping their authority, and it’s too bad they’re rushing to judgment and so eager to do this.”

Petersen’s friend and former lawyer, Matt Long, has denied that Petersen’s adoption business broke the law.

Petersen completed a mission in the Marshall Islands, a collection of atolls and islands in the eastern Pacific, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He later worked in the islands and the U.S. on behalf of an international adoption agency before going to law school and becoming an adoption attorney.

Prosecutors say he charged families $25,000 to $40,000 per adoption.

The criminal case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions. There are about 30 pending adoptions in three states, authorities said in court documents.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Troy Dunn, founder of the Location Foundation, appears on an episode of Dr. Phil. Photo credit: Des...
Mark Jones

Locator Foundation working to reunite loved ones with one another

The Locator Foundation is working to reunite family members who have become separated from one another and haven't been able to reconnect.
1 day ago
Martin Gold, a visiting scholar with the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, says the Filibuster is critical...
Mark Jones

Filibuster is critical if country is to maintain compromise, expert says

A visiting scholar to the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation told Inside Sources Friday how important the filibuster is to compromise.
1 day ago
Two hands holding a green plant by the soil above empty pots...
Michelle Lee

Transplanting houseplants? Here are some tips!

SALT LAKE CITY – If you’re growing houseplants, there’s something you need to be familiar with, and that is transplanting. Transplanting houseplants is something you have to do every so often, depending on the type of plant. “Some houseplants will go for several years without needing it, and others need to be transplanted at least […]
1 day ago
A new study finds that reports of bad weather and air actually decrease ridership on the UTA....
Devin Oldroyd

Relief from inversion and poor air quality may be in Utah’s near future

The Beehive State is in the middle of some thick inversion and poor air quality, but relief may be on the way according to the National Weather Service.
1 day ago
Salt Lake City Police say three sticks of dynamite were safely removed from a house this week by it...
Mark Jones

Three sticks of dynamite removed from Salt Lake City home

Three sticks of dynamite were removed from a Salt Lake City home on Wednesday, the SLCPD announced. The dynamite have been seized for investigation.
1 day ago
A study by Intermountain Health that spanned 40 years and sought answers about the health of people...
Simone Seikaly

Intermountain’s 40-year study provides insight into weight-loss surgery

In some cases the results from the weight-loss surgery study were expected. But at least one result could be a cause for alarm and caution.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Suspension sought for politician in human trafficking case