FAYETTEVILLE, AR — Paul 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.
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, the FBI, and the Arkansas Attorney General announced the charges on Wednesday during a press conference.
The federal charges include one count of conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain, four counts of aiding and abetting in alien smuggling for commercial advantage and private financial gain, seven counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a news release.
News conferences were held simultaneously in Arizona and Utah as well on Wednesday morning.
Both Attorney General offices in Arizona and Utah announced state charges against Petersen related to the investigation. He faces 32 state charges in Arizona and 11 state charges in Utah.
Petersen is accused of paying to fly pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States where their babies were then adopted out to other families, a service that allegedly came with a $35,000 price tag, according to court documents filed in Arizona.
He is licensed to practice law in all three states. He is also serving as the Maricopa County Assessor in Arizona.
Tuesday evening, Petersen was arrested in Arizona and booked into jail where he is being held on a $500,000 cash bond, according to court documents.
A new email address has been set up for anyone who may have been affected by Petersen's alleged actions. That email address, which goes directly to the United States Attorney's Office, is firstname.lastname@example.org.