Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen faces prison time – Phoenix Business Journal – Phoenix Business Journal

Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, who is already serving time in federal prison, has been sentenced to five years in state prison in connection to his role in running an adoption scheme that was paid for unlawfully by Arizona taxpayers.
For more than a decade, through the sophisticated scheme set up through his adoption practice, Petersen brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth.
Petersen charged adoptive families around $35,000 per case and claimed he used portions of the money for medical, legal, and housing expenses. However, Petersen directed his co-conspirator, Lynwood Jennet, and the birth mothers to provide false information to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid system, to pay for the births with tax dollars. The birth mothers should not have qualified for AHCCCS benefits because they were not Arizona residents. Between November 2015 and May 2019, AHCCCS paid for at least 29 births.
According to a statement issued Friday by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Petersen’s state prison sentence will be in addition to his federal sentence.
In June 2020, Petersen pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts including fraudulent schemes and artifices and forgery. Petersen admitted to fraudulently enrolling the birth mothers in Medicaid and cheating AHCCCS out of thousands of dollars. Additionally, Petersen admitted he forged court documents to increase adoptive parents’ fees.
As part of his plea agreement, Petersen has paid $679,000 in restitution, including $650,000 to AHCCCS.
In December 2020, Petersen was sentenced to six years in federal prison for a “get-rich-quick scheme…hidden behind the shiny veneer of a humanitarian operation,” according to the federal judge at the time. Arizona’s plea agreements were not part of a global settlement.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, no one is above the law,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich in Friday’s statement. “Paul Petersen violated the public’s trust and defrauded taxpayers. Today he was held accountable.”
In December 2018, a family looking to adopt contacted Petersen and grew suspicious of his adoption agency and contacted law enforcement. Additionally, in April 2019, a social worker at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center contacted law enforcement after a birth mother listed the same person (Lynwood Jennet) as her emergency contact, notary, and interpreter. The social worker told detectives she was the third woman in three weeks to show up at the hospital under similar circumstances.
A state grand jury indicted Petersen in October 2019
After that indictment, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office opened a second criminal investigation against Petersen after he provided false information regarding birth mothers’ fees to prospective adoptive parents and to the Maricopa County Superior Court Juvenile Division.
Specifically, Petersen inflated the duration he paid for a birth mother’s living expenses to the adoptive family. For example, one family paid Petersen $33,000 for an adoption. According to an affidavit filed by Petersen in the case, he paid $11,000 for living expenses for the birth mother to live in Arizona for five months. But in reality, the birth mother arrived in Arizona one day prior to giving birth and only stayed for an additional 14 days.
Petersen is also scheduled for sentencing in a separate Utah case related to human trafficking.
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