Woman gets prison time after Marshallese adoption scheme
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A judge on Tuesday, July 12 sentenced a woman to two years in state prison after she helped a man in a years-long adoption scheme at Arizona taxpayers’ expense.
The judge sentenced Lynwood Jennet to serve prison time and pay nearly $35,000 in restitution after she pleaded guilty in December 2019 to helping former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Peterson run the scheme out of the Marshall Islands.
“Today’s sentence demonstrates that if you defraud Arizona taxpayers, you will be held accountable,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich was quoted as saying.
Jennet pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, Two Counts of Theft, and Failure to File a Tax Return. After her guilty plea, she was placed on house arrest and electronic monitoring until her sentencing.
According to a Tuesday press release from Brnovich, she helped Petersen arrange the adoptions, charging families $35,000, and enrolling the birthmothers to get Arizona medical benefits, though they were not state residents and should not have qualified.
Taxpayers funded at least 29 births between November 2015 and May 2019, the AG’s Office said.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security investigated the case, and a state grand jury indicted the pair in October 2019.
“The defendants in this case, knowingly and willfully defrauded taxpayers for the sole purpose of lining their pockets with proceeds stemming from illegal financial activity,” Homeland Security lead investigator Scott Brown was quoted as saying.
A social worker at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center contacted authorities in April 2019 after one of the birthmothers listed Jennet as her emergency contact, notary, and interpreter. The birthmother was the third woman in three weeks to come to the hospital under similar circumstances, the social worker told authorities.
Petersen pleaded guilty to the charges in June 2020 and was sentenced to five years in state prison and six years in federal prison. The sentences run consecutively.
State prosecutors Evan Malady, Scott Blake, and Blaine Gadow handled the cases.
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