Arizona official suspended after accusations of human smuggling

Arizona official suspended after accusations of human smuggling
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An assessor for Arizona’s most populous county has been suspended without pay following his indictment earlier this month in connection with a human-smuggling scheme, according to ABC News.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is not authorized to permanently remove County Assessor Paul Petersen (R) and has instead suspended him for 120 days, according to the outlet.

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Petersen has said he will not resign his office after his indictment in the scheme, which allegedly involved bringing women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S. to give birth and then placing the babies for adoption with U.S. parents, according to the indictment.

Petersen, who was last elected in 2016, also faces charges in Arizona and Utah for charges including sale of a child, fraud, forgery, human smuggling and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The Board of Supervisors said Monday that the most it can do while Peterson fights the charges brought against him is to suspend him on the grounds of “neglect of duty,” citing his absence from office since his arrest as well as his lack of access to electronic communications.

The board added that a search of his office found he had used his county computer to store files on his adoption business, violating a policy against the use of county computers for personal business, according to ABC.

He also made several calls on his desk phone and county-provided cellphone to Arkansas, Jamaica and the Philippines since 2013 when he took office, as well as about 30 emails relating to adoptions. Petersen has the option to request a hearing to defend himself.

Petersen faces more than 300 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million in fines on the charges.