A woman who acknowledged helping a former Arizona politician in an illegal adoption scheme involving women from the Marshall Islands was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday.
Lynwood Jennet, 47, took part in submitting false applications for the birth mothers to receive state-funded health coverage, even though none of the women resided in the state. She had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft charges for her role at the direction of Paul Petersen, a Republican who served as Maricopa County assessor for six years.
Petersen worked as an adoption attorney before resigning his elected post and pleading guilty in three states to crimes related to the scheme. The health care fraud committed by Petersen and Jennet totaled $814,000, authorities said.
Petersen is in prison serving a total of 11 years for a conviction in Arkansas for conspiring to commit human smuggling and a health care fraud conviction in Arizona.
Additionally, Petersen was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison in Utah for a human smuggling conviction. The Utah sentence, which leaves it up to the state’s parole board to decide how long a person actually serves, is to be served concurrently, meaning Petersen could be done with his Utah sentence by the time he completes his other sentences, or have up to four more years.
Authorities say Petersen illegally paid women from the Marshall Islands to come to the United States to give up their babies in at least 70 adoption cases over three years. Citizens of the Marshall Islands have been prohibited from traveling to the U.S. for adoption purposes since 2003.
Jennet was accused of serving as a point of contact for people in the Marshall Islands who looked for pregnant women interested in coming to the United States to give up their children for adoption. Investigators have said Jennet relayed information about birth mothers to Petersen, who bought the women passports and plane tickets to Phoenix.
Her attorney said Jennet, a native of the Marshall Islands, cooperated with investigators.