Judge Grants Injunction Against Arizona Attorney In Marshallese Adoption Scheme
FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A Washington County Circuit Judge will now oversee more than a dozen adoptions involving attorney Paul Petersen, who was charged earlier this week in a sprawling adoption scheme targeting Marshallese women.
Judge Doug Martin on Friday (Oct. 11) agreed to oversee the pending adoptions of 13 families that worked with Petersen.
The families’ attorney, Josh Bryant, filed an injunction on their behalf on Thursday (Oct. 10).
In granting the injunction, Martin appointed Fayetteville attorney Andrea McCurdy to serve as an advocate representing all expecting biological mothers in Arkansas who were in the process of adoption with Petersen.
“(McCurdy) will work to find all such biological mothers, advise them of their rights, give them notice of this case so that they have an opportunity to be heard by the Court if they so choose, help them achieve their goals in their pregnancy, and otherwise advocate for their wishes and best interests,” Bryant said.
The injunction also ordered Megan Wolfe, described in court documents as Petersen’s paralegal, to stop planning or placing a child for adoption, or offering legal advice. Bryant said Wolfe doesn’t have a law license to do either.
A temporary constructive trust was also created through the injunction to safeguard the adoptive parent’s files, property, and funds.
Bryant said the trust will allow all parties access to necessary records to continue processing each case in order of urgency.
Petersen, who is a licensed attorney in Arizona, Arkansas, and Utah, is accused of paying Marshallese women to travel to the U.S. and place their babies up for adoption.
He faces more than 50 state and federal charges, including conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for financial gain, aiding and abetting alien smuggling and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prior to his arrest, Petersen was serving as the Assessor for Maricopa County, Ariz, an elected position, according to CBS affiliate KPHO in Phoenix, Ariz.
KPHO reported Petersen served a two-year mission in the Marshall Islands for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He was being held at the Maricopa County Jail on a $500,000 bond a hold for federal court.
Petersen’s arraignment on his Arkansas charges is set for Oct. 29 in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Arkansas set up an email address for victims affected by Petersen’s alleged scheme. the identity of involved parties and information received will be strictly confidential.
A Rogers woman has also established a non-profit to help birth mothers navigate the adoption process after adopting her son, who is Marshallese, six years ago.
Michaela Montie said she created Shared Beginnings to “offer our services and support to expecting mothers who don’t have anywhere to turn or adoptive parents who don’t know what to do with this news.”
“It is worth repeating that anyone who is in an adoption case with Mr. Petersen or anyone else where they do not have a voice or a choice, Shared Beginnings is an amazing resource,” Bryant said.
“They are staffed with caring, hardworking professionals who are there to ensure that the wishes of mothers in or considering adoption are heard and followed. It is also worth repeating that despite what some may say to keep women in a specific adoption plan, no one is going to jail for getting help.”