Former Arizona Official Pleads Guilty in Adoption Scheme

Mr. Petersen also declared in those records that in three of those adoptions, there were an average of $13,000 in expenses, labeled “assistants and fee,” officials said.

The cases cited in the plea agreement offer a glimpse into Mr. Petersen’s practice, which relied on big payouts from adoptive parents, and pregnant women traveling hundreds of thousands of miles.

In one case, a birth mother identified by officials only as A.T. traveled from the Marshall Islands to Arkansas on Oct. 1, 2014. She gave birth in the state on Dec. 29 to a boy who was adopted on Jan. 7.

Mr. Petersen purchased a plane ticket for the birth mother to travel home on April 6.

For this, an adoptive family paid Mr. Petersen $27,000 for his work as a “legal facilitator,” officials said, citing local records that Mr. Petersen filed. In those records, Mr. Petersen said that there were $13,500 in related expenses, and that he had paid A.T. $7,300.

Another woman, identified as D.J., traveled to Arkansas on March 2, 2015, and gave birth to a boy on May 22. Six days later, that child was adopted and Mr. Petersen arranged for D.J. to travel home by June 9.

For this, Mr. Petersen was paid $32,000 for his work as a “legal facilitator,” and recorded $13,455 in expenses, as well as payment to D.J. for $10,800.

Mr. Petersen was first elected assessor in Maricopa County in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016. The assessor is responsible for land valuations and property tax policy.

Mr. Petersen was arrested in October 2019. He resigned from his job as assessor in January, according to the Arizona Republic.


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