Dozens of babies were fraudulently placed with adoptive families over a three- to four-year period, authorities say—and an Arizona elected official allegedly masterminded the scheme. Maricopa County Assessor Paul D. Petersen, who was indicted this week in three states on charges including human smuggling, sale of a child, money laundering, fraud, forgery, and theft, is accused of flying pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the US with the promise of $10,000 to put their babies up for adoption. Authorities say Petersen used $814,000 of taxpayer funds for state health care coverage for the women after falsifying their residency records, the New York Times reports. He also allegedly collected up to $40,000 from each set of adoptive parents. "No one’s going to go back and redo adoptions or any of that kind of stuff," says Arizona's attorney general.
The birth mothers also face no charges, the AG says; eight pregnant women were found at an Arizona home when police issued a search warrant related to the case after first being tipped off by a friend who had concerns about the legitimacy of the adoption service run by Peterson, who is a private adoption lawyer. The Arizona Republic reports it's unclear what will happen to those women's adoption plans or any adoptions that are still pending. At least 28 babies were reportedly adopted out as part of the scheme, but the AP reports up to 75 adoptions could be involved. Most of the babies were adopted to families in other states, and Petersen was also indicted in Utah and on federal charges in Arkansas. Some birth mothers returned to the Marshall Islands after giving birth, but some remained in the US. (More details here.")