NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Louisiana Senator Karen Carter Peterson has been formally charged for her alleged role in a 7-year-long scheme to steal campaign funds. Sen. Peterson is being charged with one count of felony wire fraud.
WGNO received Federal Court documents on July 14, detailing the means by which the Senator defrauded contributors to the Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund. According to these documents, the crimes took place between 2010 and 2022. Sen. Peterson served as a Louisiana State Senator for the 5th District from 2010 to 2022. She also served as the Chair of State Political Party A from 2012 to 2020.
Reports show that in an effort to raise campaign funds, Sen. Peterson formed the “Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund (KCPCF.) Monetary donations were accepted by the KCPCF with the belief that the funds would be used to aid in the re-election campaign for Peterson’s position as State Senator. According to court documents, Sen. Peterson “diverted, and caused her friends and associates to divert, campaign funds from the KCPCF to Peterson’s personal use for the purpose of obtaining and using money and property from contributors to the KCPCF by means of materially false and fraudulent representations and promises for nearly seven (7) years.”
Sen. Peterson allegedly diverted funds received from both individual and corporate donors. Court documents show that Sen. Peterson wrote checks from the KCPCF account to her friends and associates. She then directed them to cash the checks, and give most or all of the proceeds to her.
Senator Peterson is said to have used the funds “to pay for personal expenses unrelated to her campaign or the holding of public office, including to pay gambling-related expenses, and, in the course of soliciting additional contributions, failed to disclose to potential contributors that Peterson had already used funds contributed to the KCPCF for her personal benefit.”
Court documents also state that Sen. Peterson “caused the public filing of false and misleading campaign finance reports that mischaracterized expenditures as being for legitimate purposes related to her campaign or the holding of public office, but were, in fact, unrelated to such purposes and, instead, were diverted to Peterson’s personal use.”
Additionally, records show that in her role as Chair of State Political Party A, Senator Peterson “exploited her position to choose entities (“ Companies”) operated by her associates, purportedly to provide campaign-related services to State Political Party A, and to determine the amount that Party A would pay each of the Companies.” However, these Companies provided either no or minimal services for State Political Party A. Sen. Peterson is said to have then directed the Companies to surrender to her a portion of the funds paid to them by State Political Party A.
If convicted on this felony charge, Senator Peterson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release after imprisonment, a mandatory $100 special assessment fee, and a fine of up to $250,000.