Court of Appeals upholds the 6 year sentence and $100,000 fine given in Arkansas to Maricopa County Arizona Assessor Paul Petersen who ran an illegal adoption scheme.

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, right, and his attorney, Kurt Altman, as they leave a court hearing in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2019. (Photo Jacques Billeaud/AP)

The Arizona politician from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that trafficked women from the Marshall Islands to supply children that were sold through an illegal adoption scheme lost an appeal. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 6 year sentence and $100,000 fine given to Paul Petersen by a Fayetteville, Arkansas Judge Timothy Brooks.

Petersen treated the women from the Pacific island horribly. One rent house that was used to house the women until they gave birth had shackles on the beds, was dirty, and the doors were locked so that the women could not escape. Peterson is known to have illegally adopted out at least 70 babies. However, the adoptions still stand.

Paul Petersen was sentenced to 11 years in prison in Arizona five of which pertain to fraud convictions, false applications to the state’s Medicaid system, and falsifying documents made to a county juvenile court, 6 years in Arkansas for conspiring to smuggle people, and in Utah where he pled guilty to human smuggling and fraud he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in which the parole board will ultimately decide how much time he will serve.

Oddly, Peterson argued that his sentence is two years longer than recommended sentencing guidelines. It is unclear what the recommendations for sentencing someone that so horrifically treated vulnerable women and sold their babies is.  

“Petersen arranged the sale of infants for personal profit; he did so for many years and in three states; he did so while serving as a public official; his crime involved a significant fraudulent scheme against the State of Arizona; he repeatedly lied and instructed others to do so; and he fully knew the illegality of his conduct. Petersen does not show the district court committed a clear error of judgment here,” the appeals court judgement states.

Petersen also argued that the $100,000 fine was unreasonable and said that he does not have access to his wife’s assets. The court upheld the fine saying, “Even if this finding was erroneous, the district court did not clearly err in alternatively imposing a fine based on Petersen’s future ability to pay because of his prior legal education and employment”. Petersen has since paid back $670,000 of the more than $800,000 in health care costs to the state that prosecutors cited in the indictment.Of course, no amount of money will ever be able to undo the damage that he did to the women and children that he trafficked and sold.

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