Trial Postponed For Former County Official Accused of Human Trafficking

human trafficking trial

By Jessica Swarner

March 10, 2020

Paul Petersen was arrested last year on more than 60 felony charges across three states. 

Prosecutors and defense attorneys involved with the case of former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen told court officials Monday that neither side would be ready to take the case to trial for several months, according to KJZZ

Previously-filed court records stated Petersen’s trial could begin as early as May 28. However, the defense says they are still waiting for the state to provide evidence for them to review. Prosecutors told the courts they don’t know how long the delay will be, but they will have a better idea of what the timeline will look like next month. Once a trial date is set, lawyers will have about 30 days to argue the case before a judge.

Petersen was arrested in October 2019 and accused of running an adoption scheme that recruited pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come give birth in the U.S. Petersen then allegedly adopted out the women’s babies to families in Arizona, Arkansas, and Utah, who paid him around $35,000.

Petersen has also been charged with fraud for illegally enrolling Marshallese women in Arizona’s Medicaid system although they didn’t meet the program requirements. Law enforcement claim Petersen bilked the state out of $800,000 through his Medicaid scam.

Petersen originally refused to step down from his role as county assessor despite his arrest. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors responded by issuing Peterson a 120-day suspension last October. He resigned shortly before the suspension ended.

During Petersen’s suspension, the board appointed Bill Wiley to fill as an interim assessor. After Petersen announced his resignation, the board appointed Gilbert Town Councilman Eddie Cook to step in through the rest of Petersen’s term, which ends Dec. 31.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty to all of his charges. In December, named accomplice Lynwood Jennet pleaded guilty to several charges filed against her in exchange for agreeing to testify against Petersen if necessary. 


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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