Paul Petersen's property, bank accounts frozen in $1.5 million seizure warrant
An investigation by The Arizona Republic, based on contracts, texts, emails and internal documents, found Petersen treated birth mothers and their children like monetary transactions.
moved multiple women in and out of homes he owned in Mesa and Utah,
took cuts for living expenses out of money he promised birth mothers and
made every effort to enroll them in Medicaid programs.
adoption practice was rooted in his 1998 mission to the Marshall
Islands for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A top church official this month said he was disgusted and sickened by the details of Petersen's case.
Latter-day Saints Apostle Ronald Rasband calls Paul Petersen's adoption scheme 'sickening'
Rasband, a general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, speaks on Oct. 18, 2019, to The Arizona Republic
Editorial Board. (Photo: Brady Klain/The Republic)|
A top leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints denounced Paul Petersen's adoption scheme as "sickening."
Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said Petersen's
membership in the church does not exonerate his conduct nor excuse any
“We’re just as disgusted with it as
anybody," Rasband told The Arizona Republic in a recent interview. “The
details of this case are sickening.”
The Quorum is
the second-highest governing body in the church, after the president,
and helps set worldwide policy for its 17 million members.
comments mark the first time the church has taken a public position on
the case, which is reverberating with political, cultural and legal
He acknowledged the church will review Petersen's membership.
is the elected Maricopa County assessor. He was indicted on human
trafficking charges last month in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas related to
his private adoption practice in Mesa.
say Petersen illegally transported pregnant women from the Marshall
Islands to the U.S., fraudulently enrolled them for Medicaid and
orchestrated adoptions of their children to American families for up to
Neither Petersen nor his attorney would comment on Rasband's remarks.
Petersen has pleaded not guilty to charges in Arizona and Arkansas and is scheduled to appear Friday in a Utah court.
A church mission to the Marshall Islands
Saints officials acknowledged Petersen's practice was rooted in his
1998 church mission to the Marshall Islands, where he said he learned
the language and began facilitating adoptions.
said a recent inquiry found that individuals within the church
community previously had expressed concern about Petersen "and sought to
distance" themselves from him years before his arrest.
said Petersen's alleged conduct was not sanctioned by the church and
said no overlap was found between Petersen's adoption practice and the
church’s Family Services arm.
“The fact that he’s a Latter-day Saint does not exonerate him,” Rasband said.
He questioned if Petersen's religious ties would undergo rigorous scrutiny if he was not a church member.
Elder Paul Pieper said missionaries can develop strong ties with
members of the communities they serve. An unscrupulous person might take
advantage of those ties, he said.
Text messages and
interviews obtained by The Arizona Republic show Petersen frequently
placed children with Latter-day Saints families.
Adoptive parents said Petersen was regarded
as a family man and a trusted source for adoptions, particularly among
the Latter-day Saint community in Arizona, Utah and Arkansas.
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