AZ man in human trafficking case to be sentenced in Fayetteville

Regional News

AZ man recruited Marshallese women to come to the U.S. and give up their babies for money

Paul Petersen. Former Maricopa County, AZ, assessor. Resigned in 1/2020.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The man who sold newborn babies of Marshallese women for profit will be sentenced in a Fayetteville federal courtroom on Tuesday, December 1.

According to the Western District of Arkansas, the hearing will be handled virtually, with Paul Petersen in Arizona, starting at 9:30 a.m. CST.

In June, Petersen changed his plea to guilty to one count “conspiracy to engage in smuggling illegal aliens for private/commercial financial gain.”

Initially, he was charged with a total of 19 counts for: aiding and abetting (4 counts), wire/mail fraud (12 counts), visa fraud and money laundering (1 count each).

The hearing is expected to last no more than 2.5 hours if there are not any interruptions or unforeseen changes.

The prosecution is asking for a 10 year sentence.

In January, he’s expected to be sentenced in Arizona and Utah.

Petersen said he accepts the consequences of his actions.

  • Paul Petersen


Petersen, 45, an Arizona native, is represented by Phoenix attorney Kurt Altman.

Peterson was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1990s. His church mission was in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, per court documents.

An Arizona State University (ASU) graduate, and a graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at ASU in 2002.

Petersen is arrested in Maricopa County, Arizona, on October 8, 2019, on 29 counts of fraud, and one each of forgery, theft, conspiracy.

He has posted bonds in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah. He faces state and federal charges in all states.

In Arkansas, co-defendant Maki Takehisa was also charged in the illegal adoption scheme. Federal prosecutors said they paid at least four Marshallese women to place their babies for adoption — but said dozens of women were involved.

Washington County booking photo Maki Takehisa. 10/2019.

In Arizona, co-defendant Lynwood Jennet is accused of the fraudulent scheme. Petersen and Jennet are indicted on 29 counts of fraud, and one each of forgery, theft, and conspiracy, on October 7, 2019. Sentencing is expected in January 2021.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office booking photo Lynwood Jennet.

October 8, 2019, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to suspend him from his elected position as Maricopa County Tax Assessor.

In Utah, on November 15, 2019, Peterson was charged with 11 counts in connection to human smuggling.

December 2019, Petersen’s wife, Raquel Petersen, filed for divorce after 13 years of marriage. They have four young children.

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