Paul Petersen, the former Republican elected official who pleaded guilty in three courts for an adoption fraud case, was sentenced to five years in prison in his home state of Arizona on Friday.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, no one is above the law,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R). “Paul Petersen violated the public’s trust and defrauded taxpayers. Today he was held accountable.”
It’s two courts down, one to go. Petersen was sentenced by an Arkansas federal judge in December to 6 years in prison. Arizona says say the new 5-year sentence will be in “addition” to his federal one. The final sentencing–in Utah–is still pending after it got postponed.
Petersen, then the assessor for Maricopa County, was first charged in 2019 for getting pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to come over the United States and give up their babies for adoption. Arizona prosecutors say the defendants spent more than decade setting up adoptions, charging the recipient families about $35,000 per case. He and his co-defendant Lynwood Jennet–who is scheduled for sentencing in Arizona on April 19–cheated Arizona’s Medicaid system to get paid for at least 29 births, authorities said.
Authorities also said Petersen lied about how long the mothers spent in the United States. For example, he got $33,000 from an adoptive family after he claimed to paid $11,000 for the birth mother to say in the United States for five months. In reality, she was only in the Copper State for 15 days.
He pleaded guilty last July 2020 to charges including fraudulent schemes, and artifices and forgery.
[Mugshot via Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office]
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