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Peterson sentenced to more than six years

A. Drew Smith
adsmith@swtimes.com
Peterson

On Tuesday afternoon, the Western District of Arkansas sentenced Paul Peterson to more than six years, 74 months, in prison for human smuggling in Arkansas.

Peterson plead guilty to the charges in Arizona, Arkansas and Utah in June.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes called it a “unique and complex case.” This case spanned three states and two countries in an international adoption scheme involving Marshallese women and their children.

Pete Kapoukapis of the State Department said that “we hope this strong sentencing creates a deterrent.” This is the first case of its kind and serves to set a precedence for future human trafficking cases.

According to Kapoukapis, this investigation and sentencing would not have been possible without victim witnesses and he hoped that this case would stop the “chain of victimization.”

With approximately 500 adoptions rendered in Arkansas, Arizona and Utah, Peterson coerced between 25 and 99 women from the Marshall Islands to come to America to give up their babies for adoption in exchange for a better life. All these women were completely dependent on Peterson from the time they left the Marshall Islands.

While Peterson’s exact profit is unknown, the Western District of Arkansas estimated a $10,000 to $15,000 profit per adoption.

Peterson will serve concurrent sentences meaning that whatever sentences he receives in Arizona and Utah will run at the same time as the one he received Tuesday in Arkansas.

The Western District of Arkansas requested 120 months, but the judge sentenced Peterson to 74. Fowlkes stated that they were “respectful and pleased” with the court’s decision.

The investigation is still ongoing and is set to create “completely new ground” according to Kapoukakis.

In order to achieve this sentence, the Western District of Arkansas pursued the human trafficking route and considered this sentence a success.