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Arizona official pleads not guilty in adoption fraud case

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — An elected official in Arizona accused of running a human smuggling scheme that brought pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in Arkansas.

Authorities say Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen illegally paid the Pacific island women to have their babies in the United States and give them up for adoption.

After entering his plea in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Tuesday, Petersen was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to wear an ankle monitor.

Petersen’s trial in Arkansas on human smuggling and adoption fraud charges is set for Dec. 9.

He also faces charges in Arizona and Utah.

He entered his plea a day after the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to suspend him without pay for up to 120 days.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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This undated photo provided by the Maricopa County Assessor's Office shows Assessor Paul Petersen. Petersen has been indicted in an adoption fraud case, accused of arranging for dozens of pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come to the U.S. to give their children up for adoption. Utah also has charged him on multiple felony counts, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. (Maricopa County Assessor's Office via AP)

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A lawyer for an Arizona elected official charged in three states in an international adoption scheme said Tuesday prosecutors have miscast his client as a human smuggler.