A former state senator and party chairwoman was arrested for wire fraud after allegedly using campaign contributions for personal expenses. Most of the skimmed campaign funds was allegedly used for gambling purposes.
Karen Peterson, 52, was a former Louisiana state senator who represented the 5th Congressional District for more than a decade. She resigned her Senate seat in April, citing mental health and a gambling addiction.
She had also served as the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party from 2012 to 2020, becoming the first female chair of the state party, according to a Wikipedia report.
Peterson had received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from the Black Lives Matter PAC to help her win the congressional seat for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, according to a Fox News report.
According to the Bill of Information drawn by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the former state senator conned campaign contributors for at least seven years.
“As a Louisiana State Senator, Peterson formed and maintained a campaign organization, the “Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund” (KCPCF), to solicit and raise campaign funds from individual and corporate donors,” U.S. Attorney Michael Simpson stated in his legal filing. “The campaign funds were solicited based upon the representations and premise that the funds would be used to facilitate Peterson’s reelection for the position of State Senator.”
She also had control of campaign contributions received by the Louisiana Democratic Party for supporting party candidate campaigns, which she also allegedly dipped into.
Peterson used six friends or associates and four companies, owned by three of the associates, to further her financial misdeeds, according to the Justice Department. Between at least November 25, 2018, and April 4, 2020, she allegedly took political contributions and used the money for personal uses.
The BLM-backed congressional candidate defrauded and obtained money and property from the KCPCF, campaign contributors and the state’s Democratic Party. The feds claim she used materially false and fraudulent pretenses and promises, using interstate wire transmissions to get the money, which she had transferred to her.
Prosecutors contend the disgraced Democrat used the illegally obtained money for personal expenses unrelated to her campaign, including paying gambling-related expenses. She compounded her crime by asking contributors for more contributions without disclosing she had used previous donations for personal expenses, the U.S. attorney declared.
She posted an apology to her Twitter account the same day the Justice Department announced the Bill of Information against her.
“Today marks an important step in my life-long recovery as I continue to address my gambling addiction,” Peterson remarked in the first of two tweets. “I sincerely apologize for the impact from my compulsive behavior resulting from this addiction.”
She added the hashtags #gamblingrecovery and #makingamends.
“I have made full repayment of funds used as a result of my addiction and I will continue to make amends,” she added in a follow-up post. “Staying true to the steps of my ongoing recovery, I have been forthright, honest, and fully cooperative with the US Attorneys’ Office in their investigation.”
Peterson could receive up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised release after imprisonment. According to Louisiana criminal defense attorney Thomas Alonzo, a Bill of Information usually means there is a chance to request a reduction of charges. Alonzo contrasted it with a grand jury indictment that means a charged individual will go to trial on the charge they were indicted for.