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Paul Petersen case update: Woman pleads guilty to part in alleged adoption fraud scheme

Posted at 12:46 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 20:48:54-05

PHOENIX — The woman who assisted Count Assessor Paul Petersen in his alleged adoption fraud business plead guilty to reduced charges today.

Lynnwood Jennet will be sentenced to between two to four years in prison. Jennett will pay $814,000 in restitution to Arizona's Healthcare Cost Containment System.

Jennett was facing 32 counts, including Medicaid fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. She agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit fraudulent schemes, two counts of theft and failing to file a tax return.

Jennett reportedly worked with Petersen for six years.

Court documents say she was the point of contact for Marshallese women looking to put their babies up for adoption through Petersen's agency.

Jennett booked flights to Arizona, served as translator, and assisted in filling out the paperwork which allowed the Marshallese mothers to receive Medicaid.

She also served as contact for medical services, lived with the women and drove them to their medical appointments, according to court documents.

Documents state Jennet was "directly involved with 15 plus birth mothers from Marshall Islands."

She is also accused of fraudulently receiving Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System benefits and not reporting income.

New documents obtained by ABC15 show what led investigators to look into a series of adoptions in the first place.

Earlier, Petersen appeared in Superior Court where it was announced that prosecutors have drawn up a global plea agreement that would encompass charges in Utah and Arkansas.

Petersen will have until March 20 to decide if he will take the plea agreement.

"Today's development is a significant step towards justice in this case," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "We will continue to pursue any individual who rips off Arizona taxpayers."

Meanwhile, the County Board of Supervisors met in executive session for a second time this week to discuss what the next move is with Petersen.

The Board suspended him without pay for 120 days for failure to perform his duties. Petersen is appealing the suspension.

During the executive session, spokesman Fields Mosley said the Board is still waiting for a final investigative report before deciding whether to lift the suspension. Mosley didn't think a decision will happen until after Christmas.

Prosecutors say Petersen 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.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah to charges stemming from his law firm's adoption practice.

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

FULL SECTION: Adoption fraud scheme