An Arizona official accused of trafficking Marshallese babies through an illegal adoption scheme has pleaded not guilty.
Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen, who also operates an adoption law firm, was arraigned in an Arizona court this week.
Petersen spent nearly three weeks in federal custody before being released on a $100,000 bond.
Petersen was indicted last month and is accused of using false information to place Marshallese women on state-funded healthcare in order to pay for delivery costs and bilking the state out of more than $800,000.
According to the indictment, Petersen and co-defendant Lynwood Jennet purchased travel arrangements for pregnant Marshallese women to travel to Arizona for the sole purpose of placing their baby up for adoption.
After the women gave birth and completed the adoption, Petersen allegedly purchased travel for the birth mothers to leave the State of Arizona. The women either moved to Arkansas or back to the Marshall Islands.