NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Former Louisiana state senator Karen Carter Peterson will serve prison time after pleading guilty to a seven-year defrauding scheme in which she took money from the state Democratic Party and her own campaign fund to gamble.
On Wednesday (Jan. 11), Carter Peterson was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison on one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
Peterson’s attorney asked Judge Sara Vance to consider probation or home confinement, arguing that Peterson’s gambling addiction resulted in a diminished mental capacity. Vance rejected the request, stating the former senator did not meet the criteria and that her gambling addiction didn’t cause her to engage in criminal activity.
Peterson will surrender to federal prison at 12 p.m. on March 6 — less than a year after she announced her resignation.
In July, WGNO received federal court documents that showed how the former senator reportedly defrauded contributors to the Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund. The documents revealed that the crimes happened between 2010 and 2022 while Peterson was serving as both the State Senator for Louisiana’s Fifth District and Chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
The Dept. of Justice later reported that Peterson would write checks drawn from the KCPCF to friends and associates, have them cash the checks at area banks, then have the money returned to her. On some occasions, the DOJ says that the person cashing the check would be allowed to keep some of the funds.
Peterson is accused of using the money for gambling-related issues instead of for political campaigning, which was what was reported on her tax forms. Between November 2013 and March 2020, nearly $100,000 was diverted from the fund.
Additionally, the DOJ accuses Peterson of exploiting her position as Chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party by falsely reporting that the party paid certain companies for campaign services when the companies, in return, provided no such services. Peterson then reportedly told the companies to return a portion of the money to her personally, resulting in more than $50,000 stolen from October 2019 to April 2020.
Following the release of the financial documents, Peterson announced her resignation from the Louisiana State Senate in April after serving for 23 years. With her resignation, Peterson confessed she was struggling with personal matters throughout her career involving depression and a gambling addiction. It was decided in court that she would not be allowed inside a casino or anywhere gambling takes place.