Crime: Elected Arizona official accused of selling babies suspended - - PressFrom - US
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Crime Elected Arizona official accused of selling babies suspended

03:05  29 october  2019
03:05  29 october  2019 Source:   msn.com

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An elected official in Arizona was suspended after he was charged with running a human smuggling scheme that brought pregnant women from the Petersen, a Republican, has been indicted in federal court in Arkansas and also charged in Arizona and Utah with crimes that include human smuggling

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PHOENIX (AP) — An elected official in Arizona was suspended Monday after he was charged with running a human smuggling scheme that brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and then paid them to give up their children for adoption.

FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows County Assessor Paul Petersen, who has been indicted in an adoption fraud case. Petersen is accused of arranging for dozens of pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come to the U.S. to give their children up for adoption. Utah also has charged him with 11 felony counts, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday, Oct. 23, to notify Petersen that it plans to consider suspending him for up to 120 days. It can't remove him from office and he's refused to resign. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)© Provided by The Associated Press FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows County Assessor Paul Petersen, who has been indicted in an adoption fraud case. Petersen is accused of arranging for dozens of pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come to the U.S. to give their children up for adoption. Utah also has charged him with 11 felony counts, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday, Oct. 23, to notify Petersen that it plans to consider suspending him for up to 120 days. It can't remove him from office and he's refused to resign. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

Leaders in Arizona's most populous county suspended Assessor Paul Petersen without pay for 120 days. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors doesn't have the power to permanently remove him from his office, which determines the value of properties for tax purposes in Phoenix and its suburbs.

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The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors takes the first step toward suspending an elected official accused of running a human smuggling scheme during a meeting in Phoenix Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to notify Assessor Paul Petersen that it plans to consider suspending him for up to 120 days. It can't remove him from office and he's refused to resign. AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)© Provided by The Associated Press The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors takes the first step toward suspending an elected official accused of running a human smuggling scheme during a meeting in Phoenix Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to notify Assessor Paul Petersen that it plans to consider suspending him for up to 120 days. It can't remove him from office and he's refused to resign. AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

Petersen, who is in federal custody, has so far refused to resign since his arrest on Oct. 8. His lawyer, Kurt Altman, said Petersen will fight to keep the $77,000-a-year job he was last elected to in 2016.

Petersen, a Republican, has been indicted in federal court in Arkansas and also charged in Arizona and Utah with crimes that include human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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(Newser) – Dozens of babies were fraudulently placed with adoptive families over a three- to four-year period, authorities say—and an Arizona elected official allegedly The Arizona Republic reports it's unclear what will happen to those women's adoption plans or any adoptions that are still pending.

Mr. Brnovich said most of the babies were placed with adoptive families in other states and that their birth mothers According to his biography on the Maricopa County website, Mr. Petersen was first elected assessor in Phoenix is part of Maricopa County, which is Arizona ’s most populous county.

The criminal case spans three years and involves some 75 adoptions, authorities said, with about 30 adoptions pending in three states.

Petersen is accused of illegally paying women from the Marshall Islands to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption. The women were crammed into homes owned or rented by Petersen, sometimes with little to no prenatal care, court documents say.

Petersen charged families $25,000 to $40,000 per adoption, prosecutors said.

Petersen completed a mission in the Marshall Islands, a collection of atolls and islands in the eastern Pacific, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He later worked in the islands and the U.S. on behalf of an international adoption agency before going to law school and becoming an adoption attorney.

The Board of Supervisors said Monday that Arizona law allows it to suspend Petersen for "neglect of duty," citing his absence from the office during his incarceration and limited access to phone and email.

An audit of Petersen's office also found files from his adoption business on his county computer, which can't be used for personal business, the supervisors said.

The audit also showed several calls made from Petersen's desk phone or county-provided cellphone to Arkansas, Jamaica and the Philippines over the past six years and about 30 emails related to adoptions since Petersen became assessor in 2013.

Board Chairman Bill Gates said the supervisors will look to appoint someone to fill Petersen's position during the suspension.

Petersen is allowed to request a hearing to defend himself. Petersen's attorney said the law allowing elected officials to be suspended may be unconstitutional.

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