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Paul Petersen adoption fraud scheme: What led to the investigation

Posted at 1:22 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 20:50:35-05

PHOENIX — ABC15 has obtained official documents detailing what led to the investigation into an alleged adoption scheme involving Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen and Lynwood Jennet.

According to a search warrant affadavit, officials were first tipped off to the case in late April 2019 when a Marshallese woman gave birth at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.

FULL COVERAGE: Adoption fraud scheme

A social worker was reportedly alarmed to find that the mother's "emergency contact, the notary and the interpreter were all the same person," which was Lynwood Jennet, according to the document. She was set to give her newborn baby up for adoption and she was reportedly the third woman in three weeks to give birth at the hospital under similar circumstances.

Officials looked into Jennet and the mother, and found that both women were receiving Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System benefits. They also discovered that Jennet "has been directly involved with 15 plus birth mothers from Marshal Islands."

They also learned that Jennet had a large sum of money in a discovered bank account with tens of thousands of dollars coming from "Law Office of Paul D. Petersen PLLC Law." She reportedly did not file taxes in Arizona or report the income.

A "covert camera" was later installed to monitor the activity and people coming to and from Jennet's residence in Mesa, which included one woman who "appeared to be pregnant."

Officials also requested a GPS tracking system be placed on Jennet's vehicle to see if they could track where other involved mothers may have been living, and tracking information from her phone.

In October, the Arizona Department of Public Safety raided Petersen's home and businesses, leading them to find eight pregnant Marshallese women.

They then arrested and criminally indicted Petersen and Jennet.

Petersen was also suspended from his county assessor duties in October. He has pleaded not guilty in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah to charges stemming from his law firm's adoption practice.

Prosecutors say he illegally paid women from the Marshall Islands up to $40,000 to come to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption.

Charges include human smuggling, sale of a child and fraud.