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Paul Petersen sentenced to more than 6 years in human smuggling scheme

Paul Petersen was sentenced to more than six years (74 months) for his role in an Arkansas adoption scheme.

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Paul Petersen's sentencing hearing for the conviction of human smuggling in Arkansas took place Tuesday (Dec. 1)

The court denied the defense suggestion that a low-end guideline sentence is appropriate. The court found the guidelines 37-46 months is too low compared to other comparably conduct that the court sees every day.

The court believes in the middle of the guideline range is the most appropriate place to pinpoint Petersen's sentence

Petersen was sentenced to more than six years (74 months) followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine and court costs totally $105,100 for Conspiracy to Smuggle Illegal Aliens for Commercial Advantage and Private Financial Gain. 

Petersen has 14 days to appeal and has to self-report for his sentence no later than 1 p.m. on Jan. 21.

He will serve time at a facility nearest his home in Mesa, Arizona. 

“The defendant in this case violated the laws of three states and two countries during the course of his criminal scheme,” stated First Assistant United States Attorney Fowlkes. "He exploited a legal loophole and used it to run an International adoption business outside the necessary oversight from the United States or the Republic of the Marshall Islands. During the scheme, the defendant lied to state court judges, falsified records, encouraged others to lie during court proceedings, and manipulated birth mothers into consenting to adoptions they did not fully understand. This unique case merited the strong sentence ordered by the Court today. It is our sincere hope that this sentence sends a message to those who would seek to conduct human trafficking operations in the Western District of Arkansas, and to those who would seek to manipulate and take advantage of people like the Marshallese citizens in this case.” 

Prosecutors said former Paul Petersen defrauded state courts, violated an international adoption compact, and took advantage of birth mothers.

Petersen was first arrested in October 2019 after officials across the three states said he was running an illegal international adoption scheme for years.

His arrest was based on a 19-count Superseding Indictment from the Western District of Arkansas, a 32-county Indictment from the State of Arizona and an 11-count Information from the State of Utah, according to court records.

Court records indicate Petersen accepts the consequences of his actions. 

His plea in court papers for leniency was accompanied by letters of support from some adoptive families. 

In his letter, he stated in part, "I believed I was following the rules and law, but I was wrong...I accept full responsibility for my actions in this case." He continued writing, "I developed a deep bond with the Marshallese people during my Mormon mission twenty-five year ago. Many of my happiest memories and closest friendships are connected to people I met in Marshall Islands." 

Michaela Monte serves as the Executive Director for Shared Beginnings Non-profit. Shared Beginnings works to provide resources for victims in the alleged adoption scheme. Monte said since Petersen pleaded guilty to human smuggling charges in Arkansas in June, over 100 victims have come forward to share their stories. 

“You hope that that sense of peace and justice comes at the end, but for these women, it's just one more milestone in their healing process,” Monte said. 

RELATED: Prosecutors in Arkansas will seek 10-year sentence for Paul Petersen in adoption scheme

RELATED: Paul Petersen pleaded guilty to human smuggling charge in Arkansas

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