PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Phoenix church says it's helping Marshallese victims caught up in the alleged adoption scandal involving the Maricopa County assessor.
There are questions about whether the women understood what was happening.
The pastor for Life Church at South Mountain said some families and friends of the moms go to a Sunday afternoon Marshallese service at his church.
"Most of the Marshallese people are hardworking," Pastor Greg Pratt said. "They're very loving. They love the family together, and hearing about the tearing a part of a family or unit of them is very difficult."
[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Adoption fraud investigation]
"They thought they were gonna be here temporarily," Pratt continued. "[M]ost of them, they were lied to about the finances. They were lied to about the situation they would be living in, and the circumstances of what would happen to the kids."
Pratt said a couple who runs the Marshallese service at his church is in contact with the moms who worked with Petersen.
"They have an apartment where they're staying in," Pratt said. "I don't know for sure where it is. I know that our pastor's wife went to them. She saw the atrocity they were living in."
Pratt's church is accepting donations of food, clothing, furniture, and money for the Marshallese moms. He said anyone wishing to donate can call Life Church at South Mountain at 602-437-9355 or go online to LifeChurchofGod.org. (Click the phone number to call from this story on your mobile device.)
The Arizona Department of Public Safety said it also "has worked with public and private partners to ensure the well-being of the eight pregnant Marshallese women located within an apartment in Mesa," according to a statement from the agency. "AZDPS continues to assist in welfare visits by law enforcement, governmental and non-profit organizations. Several non-profits have committed to assisting and relocating the women to different housing if needed."
Homeland Security Investigations released a statement, as well.
“Prior to the arrest of Petersen on state charges, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) contacted non-profits requesting they be on stand-by should the Marshallese woman require temporary living arrangements and/or further assistance," ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said. "As this remains an ongoing investigation and to respect the privacy of these women, no other information is available.”
FULL STATEMENT FROM THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
"On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) arrested Paul Petersen on 32 felony counts related to his alleged involvement in an adoption fraud scheme involving Marshallese women. Since the time of Petersen’s arrest, AZDPS has worked with public and private partners to ensure the well-being of the eight pregnant Marshallese women located within an apartment in Mesa. AZDPS continues to assist in welfare visits by law enforcement, governmental and non-profit organizations. Several non-profits have committed to assisting and relocating the women to different housing if needed. These non-profits have been in contact with the AZDPS. The AZDPS is committed to working with everyone involved in helping to ensure all available resources are afforded to the Marshallese women."