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Families react to arrest of Maricopa County Assessor charged with human smuggling, selling children

Women brought to the U.S. to give birth, their babies adopted for up to 40-thousand dollars in what’s being called a human smuggling ring. And the suspect at the center of it all is Maricopa County Assessor, Paul Petersen, who is now facing multiple felonies including selling children.

As the case continues to evolve two couples have come forward with two very different experiences with Petersen’s adoption agency.

One of the couples is defending Petersen, saying it’s because of him they are parents but the other says their hopes of adopting a baby were crushed and they blame Petersen.

Angie and Dallas Lundquist hired Petersen’s adoption agency to handle their adoption On the day they drove to meet their newborn they say they felt something wasn’t right.

“The way the whole thing went down, the whole time I was like, I don’t know that she wants to give the baby up”, said Dallas Lundquist, “That’s what this feels like. But the excuses we kept getting were it’s a language barrier, she doesn’t know how to speak to you.”

The Lundquist’s brought home their baby girl, only to have to give her back.

“I remember that day we had to take the baby to our attorneys office. walking into his building”, said Angie Lundquist, “I sat the baby down and just fell into his arms sobbing. like he was the only thing keeping me from falling on the floor.”

The Lundquist’s said trusted Petersen throughout the adoption process but in the end felt misled

“Was she ever interested in giving up the baby”, said Dallas Lundquist, “I don’t know that she was.”

Brittney Hartley, who adopted two Marshallese babies with Petersen said she had the opposite experience. She described her families adoption process as “filled with love” and posted on Facebook, “My children are not the result of human trafficking or human smuggling.”

Hartley said she believes the birth mothers don’t feel taken advantage of and calls her adoption process “profoundly sacred”. She also posted, “All i’m saying is that because of the women, especially the Marshallese community, who stands with him, he deserves a fair trial.”

The U.S. Attorney for the western district of Arkansas estimates Petersen organized about 70 adoptions in just the last two years alone.

Sean Mooney

Sean Mooney is cohost of Tucson Today, Monday-Friday 5-7 am.

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