PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) --Maricopa County Assessor Paul D. Petersen was arrested on Tuesday night for adoption fraud charges.
He was transferred to Maricopa County where he made his initial court appearance. The judge set a $500,000 cash bond and his next court appearance is Oct. 15 where he will be required to relinquish his passport.
Who is Paul D. Petersen?
Petersen was appointed as the Maricopa County Assessor in 2013, won a special election in 2014 and was elected again in 2016. He graduated from the Sandra Day O’ Connor School of Law at Arizona State University.
Petersen served a two-year mission in the Marshall Islands for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.
He was later recruited by an international adoption agency while in law school because of his fluency in Marshallese, according to a 2013 Phoenix Business Journal story.
According to the Maricopa County website, Petersen has spent 15 years providing counsel for adoptive and birth parents.
Petersen grew up in Mesa and has a wife and four children.
As County Assessor, he is in charge of valuating property, which determines property taxes.
What is Petersen accused of?
The Utah's Attorney Office said that Petersen is alleged to have "transported over 40 pregnant Marshallese women" into that state over the last three years as part of the scheme.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office added that they worked closely with authorities from Arizona, Arkansas and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in parallel investigations of this scheme.
In Utah, Petersen is being charged with 11 felony offenses, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud.
The crimes happened between Nov. 30, 2015 and May 30, 2019, investigators said.