Petersen reportedly smuggled pregnant women into the U.S. from the Marshall Islands in order to make money off their babies using his firm. The Maricopa County Assessor is said to have violated both U.S. and international laws in his attempt to 'get rich', reports NPR.
Petersen was well-known for his ability to give desperate American families who struggled with infertility their happy ending. In order to make a good profit, however, Petersen lied about where the birth mothers came from and forged documents to reinforce they were Arizona locals in order to have covered medical expenses for them.
Charged federally in Arkansas this past Wednesday, Petersen and his associate, Maki Takehisa, were found guilty of smuggling, money laundering, and visa fraud. Duana Kees, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas describes the scheme as nothing less than "human trafficking." He explains that the women from the Marshall Islands were "treated like property", as were their babies.
NPR also reports that Petersen violated an international agreement specifically saying that women from the Marshall Islands are allowed to apply to work in the U.S but are prohibited from coming into the U.S. for the sole purpose of placing their babies up for adoption.
Sources report that the women also lied about their place of residency and their purpose of travel but that they were told to do so by Petersen. Prosecutors say that Petersen smuggled in over 40 different Marshallese women to the U.S. and made tens of thousands of dollars off of each of them. To get them to comply, he paid them a rough sum of $10,000 each.
Prosecutors saw that Petersen's bank account spiked to 2.7 million dollars during the suspected scheme, further proving he was guilty. He pulled it off by bringing the women to the U.S. and allowing them to stay in one of his houses until they gave birth. What also help him commit the crime was his connection to the Marshallese people in having lived there for two years and by speaking their language fluently.
With the adoptive parents having no idea of the fraudulent behavior they were involved in, thankfully they will not be forced to return the babies they adopted.