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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 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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