Ex-Arizona assessor Paul Petersen admits to charges in adoption fraud scheme

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A former county assessor in Arizona has pleaded guilty to running an adoption scheme that defrauded the state of more than $800,000 in Medicaid funds.

Paul Petersen faces prison sentences of up to 17 years after pleading guilty in two related cases, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Thursday.

“While Paul Petersen enjoyed a position of respect and trust in the community, he manipulated adoptive families and bilked Arizona taxpayers for his own profit,” Brnovich said.

In this Nov. 15, 2019 photo, Paul Petersen appears at court in the Matheson courthouse in Salt Lake City Utah with his attorney Scott Williams.   (Scott G. Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, Pool)

In this Nov. 15, 2019 photo, Paul Petersen appears at court in the Matheson courthouse in Salt Lake City Utah with his attorney Scott Williams.   (Scott G. Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, Pool)

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Petersen was the assessor in Maricopa Count, an elected position, until January when he announced his resignation.

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He was accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to come to the United States to give up their babies in at least 70 adoption cases in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas over three years.

The births were paid for with Medicaid money that was fraudulently obtained, prosecutors said.

Petersen also negotiated plea deals with prosecutors in Utah and Arkansas.

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He charged adoptive parents $40,000 in each case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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