Former Elected Official Paul Petersen Sentenced in Adoption Scheme Scandal

Paul peterson adoption scheme sentencing

Former elected official and adoption attorney, Paul Petersen, was sentenced to six years in prison in Arkansas, followed by three years of supervised release and fines totaling $105,000 for his crimes of running an illegal adoption scheme.

The Arizona-based attorney plead guilty to federal human smuggling conspiracy charges in the state of Arkansas back in June, following similar guilty pleas in Utah and Arizona, where he still awaiting sentencing.

Petersen’s clients paid him up to $30,000 to bring pregnant women from the Republic of the Marshall Islands into the U.S. for what he called a full-service adoption, telling clients that it included legal fees, the birth mother’s medical expenses and doctor’s visits, rent and food. Meanwhile, he was illegally smuggling the women into the U.S. and offering them $10,000 once they gave birth.

Petersen carried out this scheme for over a decade. The former elected accessor falsified documents and lied to judges about the birth mothers’ legal status, among other crimes.

“He exploited a legal loophole and used it to run an International adoption business outside the necessary oversight from the United States or the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” First Assistant United States Attorney David Clay Fowlkes said in a release about Petersen’s sentencing.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks, who presided over the virtual hearing, described Petersen’s actions as “selling babies.” One of Petersen’s lawyers, Scott Williams, responded with, “By describing what Mr. Petersen did as ‘selling babies,’ a position that even the government didn’t take, the judge stigmatized every happy family created by the adoptions, and essentially branded the adopted children as contraband. A shame.”