Former La. state senator charged with mail fraud

Published 12:28 pm Thursday, July 14, 2022

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged former state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson with one count of wire fraud in a seven-year scheme to defraud political party donors.

Peterson served as a state senator for the 5th District in New Orleans from 2010 until April 8, 2022, and as the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party between 2012-2020.

As a state senator she founded and maintained the Karen Carter Peterson Campaign Fund to solicit and raise campaign funds from individual and corporate donors. The campaign funds were solicited based upon the premise the funds would be used to facilitate Peterson’s re-election campaign, court documents report.

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Peterson is accused of diverting — and having friends and associates divert — campaign funds from that fund for her personal use for nearly seven years. She is accused of writing checks from the account to friends and associates and directing them to cash the checks and then to give most or all of the proceeds to her. Some of the expenses were alleged to have been used to pay off gambling-related debts.

She is also accused of filing misleading campaign financing reports that mischaracterized expenditures as being for legitimate purposes related to her campaign or the holding of public office.

Additionally, in her role as chair of the state Democrat Party, Peterson oversaw the decision-making, operations, outreach and direction of the organization and supervised its permanent staff — including individuals who had signatory authority of the group’s financial accounts. Peterson is accused of exploiting her position to select businesses operated by her friends to provide campaign-related services to the organization then directing them to cash the checks and return most or all of the money back to her.

If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, up to three years of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee.