The Birth of a Fraudulent Scheme

Corrupt doctor with money in his pocket

A former Maricopa County, Ariz., assessor has been sentenced after pleading guilty to Medicaid fraud and forgery charges. Paul Peterson faced four separate charges in relation to his operation of a fraudulent adoption scheme.

Petersen was first arrested in October 2019 for his role in the creation of an illegal adoption pipeline. Authorities state that he brought women to the U.S. from the Marshall Islands, arranged for them to give birth in local hospitals, and then set up adoptions of their babies to American families for up to $40,000 each. (This sounds like a bad soap opera plot.)

Approximately 70 women were convinced by Petersen and his associates to travel to the U.S. and give up their babies. Once in the U.S., Petersen fraudulently enrolled the birth mothers in Arizona’s Medicaid system despite them not being eligible beneficiaries. (This is money straight out of the pockets of Arizona residents.)

The Arizona Medicaid program was defrauded out of $800,000 as a result of Peterson’s fraudulent adoption scheme. The $800,000 of taxpayer’s funds was used to cover the expenses of bringing the birth mothers to the U.S. from the Marshall Islands and their adoption payments.

Petersen also admitted to forging documents to boost the fees he charged adoptive parents. He was sentenced to five years in an Arizona state prison after pleading guilty to fraud and forgery charges. (He manipulated everyone from the birth parents to the adoptive family.)

The five-year sentence was in addition to a 74-month federal prison term that began in January. Petersen will be incarcerated for at least 11 years before he is eligible for release. (Doesn’t seem like enough time considering all the lives he impacted.)  

Petersen has completed a repayment of $700,000 to the Arizona Medicaid program for the fraudulent charges. In addition to these charges, Petersen pleaded guilty last year to a federal human smuggling charge in Arkansas and human trafficking charges in Utah. He still faces sentencing on the Utah charges, where he faces up to an additional 15 years.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Paul Petersen sentenced to additional 5 years on AZ charges connected to adoption scheme,” published by AZCentral on March 19, 2021.

Paul Petersen was sentenced Friday to five years in an Arizona prison on fraud and forgery charges related to his illegal adoption scheme.

The former Maricopa County assessor will serve that sentence on top of a 74-month federal prison term that began in January, meaning he will be incarcerated for at least 11 years before he is eligible for release.




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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.