Marshallese president applauds arrest of Arizona official

Marshallese president applauds arrest of Arizona official
This undated booking photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows County Assessor Paul Petersen. The assessor of Arizona's most populous county has been indicted in an adoption fraud case, accused of arranging for dozens of pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to come to the U.S. to give their children up for adoption, according to an Arizona court filing. Utah also has charged Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen with 11 felony counts, including human smuggling, sale of a child and communications fraud. (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — The president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands is applauding U.S. authorities for arresting an Arizona elected official accused of running an illegal adoption scheme involving pregnant Marshallese women.

President Hilda Heine issued a statement Thursday saying people like Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen have been inducing Marshallese women for too long.

Heine says she believes "there are other illegal adoption rings out there that must be stopped." She says investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Utah attorney general's office were in the Marshall Islands this week to interview alleged victims and witnesses.

Petersen faces charges in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah including human smuggling, sale of a child and fraud.

Petersen attorney Matt Long has said Petersen’s adoption work was legal.