Arkansas judge: Court to hear 19 adoption scheme cases

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge says his court will decide individual outcomes in 19 adoption cases involving an Arizona official accused of human smuggling.

Paul Petersen, a Republican assessor of an Arizona county, was arrested Tuesday and charged with human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas.

Prosecutors say 44-year-old Petersen paid thousands of dollars to pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to travel to the U.S. and give birth for adoption.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin ordered Friday that statewide adoption cases against Petersen will be decided in his court.

Petersen's attorney said Tuesday that his client's actions are "proper business practices."

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Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com