Pregnant women from Marshall Islands getting help from Phoenix church

A Phoenix church has bridged the gap between the expecting mothers who don't speak English and the world outside of their apartments.

PHOENIX - As Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen remains in federal custody facing fraud and human trafficking charges in three states, the community is stepping up to help the pregnant Marshallese women, who prosecutors say, were deceived into coming to Arizona as part of Petersen's alleged international, multi-million dollar adoption scheme.

A Phoenix church has bridged the gap between the expecting mothers who don't speak English and the world outside of their apartments.

"There's eight women that are pregnant. They all have children with them, so there's about eight people in each two bedroom apartment," said Pastor Greg Pratt.

Pratt, along with the Marshallese congregation at Life Church, delivered food and other supplies to the Marshallese women Thursday night.

The women range in age from 18 to 40 and the children range from two to seven years old.

One woman is due to give birth next month.

The church is collecting donations of food, clothing, furniture and money.

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"And the financial side of it. If they choose to go home or move to a different location, we've already stepped up to stay church. We'll find them a place to go," Pratt said.

FOX 10's Nicole Garcia was told that the women are so terrified to leave their apartments, they're practically trapped inside. They have no means of transporation, no money and no where to go.

A man who answered the door told Garcia they are scared and feel harrassed by all of the attention.

Pratt said an attorney from the Marshall Islands has arrived to help them.

They are not considered suspects or victims in Arizona's case against Paul Petersen and Lynwood Jennet, and are free to decide the fate of their unborn children, and where they want to go.

"They're here. They can make that choice if they want to adopt children out they can. If not, they can move forward with that," Pratt said.

Petersen was charged with human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas. Petersen faces 62 charges that span about three years and involve nearly 75 adoptions.

Jennet pleaded not guilty to more than five dozen charges in Arizona, including fraud, forgery and theft.

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