Arkansas Trial Delayed For Arizona Official Accused Of Adoption Scheme

(KFSM) — The trial for an Arizona Assessor accused of running an adoption scheme throughout various states, including Arkansas, has been delayed until 2021.

Paul Petersen is accused of paying women from the Marshall Islands to give their babies for adoption by American families. He's pleaded not guilty in Arizona and Arkansas and has not yet entered a plea in Utah.

Families were allegedly charged around $35,000 to adopt the Marshallese babies.

Prosecutors say he paid the women up to $10,000 to come to the United States, where they were allegedly crammed into houses to wait to give birth and give up their babies for adoption. He faces charges in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas that include human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He was indicted in October in connection with 11 felony offenses in Arkansas, including human smuggling for financial gain, aiding in the trafficking of humans for financial gain, and wire fraud, according to federal authorities.

The Arkansas federal trial for Petersen has been delayed until February 16, 2021.

According to court documents, the continuance was granted to give Petersen's counsel more time to prepare for the trial.

A pretrial conference has been set for January 29, 2021.

A spokesman said Thursday (Dec. 19) that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is waiting for a final investigative report into Petersen's handling of his official duties.

Petersen is challenging his 120-day unpaid suspension under a rarely used state law.

According to our Arizona affiliates KPNX, Petersen's alleged co-conspirator Lynwood Jennet has pleaded guilty to multiple charges on Thursday.

Jennet pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft. She also pleaded guilty to theft and failure to file a tax return, both from a September case.

The remaining 45 counts against Jennet were dismissed.

Jennet was accused of working with Petersen in his alleged illegal international adoption scheme.

She was accused of fraudulently claiming the pregnant women lived in Arizona with her so they could obtain state benefits.

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