Former County Assessor Paul Petersen pleads guilty to welfare fraud in international adoption scheme

Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen leaves the Matheson courthouse in Salt Lake City with this attorney Scott Williams,/Scott Winterton/Deseret News

By Robert Anglen | Arizona Republic 

Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen pleaded guilty Thursday to welfare fraud and forgery connected to an international adoption scheme he operated in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas.

Petersen, during a closed hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, admitted cheating the state’s health care system for the poor out of more than $800,000 and forging documents to jack up the fees he charged adoptive parents.

As part of a plea agreement with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Petersen pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and one count of forgery, all felonies.

Petersen faces up to 16.5 years in prison on the Arizona charges.

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He is separately facing state charges of human smuggling in Utah and federal charges of smuggling, fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in Arkansas.

He has pleaded not guilty in those cases.

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