Ex-Arizona politician and attorney devised and ran a criminal adoption scheme. Sentenced to 6 years.

Paul Petersen, a licensed attorney, devised and ran a criminal adoption scheme where he and others working for him profited by paying to induce pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to give up their infants for adoption. He arranged for the women to travel to and within the United States to give birth and then adopt out their infants. He instructed the women to lie about the nature of their travel, causing false statements to be filed in state courts. His scheme involved economic coercion and imposed harsh living conditions on some of the women.

Petersen’s scheme violated federal law. Under the Amended Compact of Free Association between the United States and Marshall Islands, Marshallese citizens can generally enter the United States as nonimmigrants without a visa but cannot freely enter the United States for the purpose of placing a child up for adoption. Pub. L. No. 108-188, 117 Stat. 2720, § 141(a), (b) (2003). Petersen thus directed the
pregnant Marshallese women to circumvent and violate federal immigration laws by making, or being prepared to make, false statements to immigration authorities regarding the purpose of their travel. The federal government charged Petersen with nineteen counts in a superseding indictment.

Petersen pled guilty to the first count of the superseding indictment, charging him with conspiracy to knowingly smuggle aliens into and throughout the United States in violation of law for commercial advantage and private financial gain. See 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii), (v)(I). At sentencing, the district court calculated Petersen’s recommended sentencing range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (“Guidelines”) as 37 to 46 months of imprisonment and a fine range of $15,000 to $150,000. The district court then varied upward and sentenced
Petersen to 74 months of imprisonment. The district court also fined Petersen $100,000.

Full case here: United States v. Paul Petersen, 20-3569 (8th Cir. 2022), https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/5668859/united-states-v-paul-petersen/

US Attorneys Office: Arizona Adoption Attorney Sentenced To Over 6 Years In Prison For Alien Smuggling For Financial Gain, https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdar/pr/arizona-adoption-attorney-sentenced-over-6-years-prison-alien-smuggling-financial-gain

Read more here: Ex-Arizona politician gets 6 years in adoption scheme, by JACQUES BILLEAUD, December 1, 2020, available at https://apnews.com/article/arkansas-arizona-phoenix-utah-marshall-islands-ee4f446c23675453b01674e0f2cbbae6

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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