PHOENIX, (3TV/CBS5) -- After the arrest of County Assessor Paul Petersen in an adoption fraud operation this week, some wonder why it took so long to take him into custody.

[VIDEO: Why did it take so long for the arrest of Paul Petersen?]

[ORIGINAL STORY: Paul D. Petersen charged adoptive families $35K in fraud scheme, investigators say]

Court documents say a judge picked up on Paul Petersen’s scheme 13 years ago. That happened in 2006 when a Phoenix couple was attempting to adopt a Marshallese child. Records say the judge called the legality of Petersen's adoption process into question, but the practice continued.

[RELATED: County judge had concerns about Petersen's adoption operation in 2006]

"Maybe the judicial system dropped the ball," said Kaine Fisher, an outside family attorney at Rose Law Group. "I mean these private adoptions were going through and approved over and over and over again in our court systems here in Arizona."

[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Adoption fraud investigation]

Red flags about Petersen's adoption process using Mashallese moms were raised multiple times for more than a decade.

"I just think that nobody really took the time to look into it.  There were steps along the way where people identified that maybe there was a problem," said Fisher.

He wonders whether Petersen's status played a role in it taking so long before he was arrested.

"I think people either turned a blind eye, or they can't believe that a person of that status would be able to do something as illegal and inappropriate as he was doing, and I think that caused people to pause, and people weren't taking the allegations seriously," said Fisher.

Fisher says hospitals, AHCCCS, and law enforcement all may have dropped the ball at some point.

"Quite frankly that's very troubling to me," said Fisher. "I'm an attorney that practices family law in this county, and it just baffles me that this power and practice of wrongful adoptions would be able to continue for so long under everybody's nose."

 


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