PHOENIX — Meliena Martin and Sarah Choe just found out Saturday morning via email from the Bright Star Adoption Agency, that the owner Paul Petersen was arrested.
Petersen, an adoption lawyer in Arizona believed to be at the center of an alleged adoption and human smuggling ring that spans three states and involves pregnant women from the Marshall Islands, has been indicted on 19 federal charges.
"I feel like it's such a disgusting story, because children don't deserve that," said Martin.
The couple told ABC15 that they were going to adopt from a friend who is having a baby and planned on using Bright Star to help facilitate the adoption.
Martin said they were told their cost would be around $7,500 to $10,000, since they wouldn't need the agency to help find them a baby. The couple was told the alternative for most parents looking to adopt was $30,000 to $40,000, so it sounded like a pretty good deal.
The couple said their interactions with Mr. Petersen were normal and nothing seemed out of the ordinary or of concern, Martin said.
"He was very up-beat, he was very personable, he had a great sense of humor, he makes you want to work with him."
The only red flags the couple notice were in correspondence with the agency, from the person they were dealing with.
Martin said it seemed like they were hounding them about wanting payment upfront, such as a $500 application fee. The agency could also never seem to spell Meliena's name correctly.
"If you can't remember the second E in my name, how do I know that you are going to be as detailed and as efficient in my adoption."
Since learning of Petersen's arrest and what happened, Meliena and Sarah say they've decided to go elsewhere and work with a new attorney or agency on their adoption.