Louisiana politician Karen Carter Peterson, who has been battling gambling addiction, was charged with wire fraud on Thursday. She reportedly agreed to a plea deal on the charge.
Peterson, 52, of New Orleans, used campaign money for gambling-related and other personal expenses, according to a statement from Louisiana US Attorney Duane A. Evans.
In a scheme lasting close to seven years, Peterson allegedly wrote checks on a campaign account to friends and associates. The friends and associates would cash the checks and give the money back to Peterson, prosecutors said.
Also, while Louisiana Democratic Party chair, checks were written to several companies. But the companies “provided either no or minimal services” to the party, prosecutors said. Peterson instead directed the companies to return some of the money back to her, prosecutors add.
If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. She also could be placed on supervised release for up to three years after leaving prison.
Peterson has agreed to a plea agreement on the charge, her attorney, Brian Capitelli, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. It is unclear if the plea deal includes prison time.
On Wednesday, she paid back $50,000 to the state’s Democratic Party after allegedly improperly using the campaign money. She also has apologized.
This past April, when stepping down from her political post, she announced she had gotten inpatient and outpatient treatment for depression and addiction. She also took to social media to share her remorse for her actions and relapse.
“She is sincerely remorseful for her compulsive behavior resulting from this addiction and has made full repayment of funds used as a result of her addiction,” Capitelli recently told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. “She has been forthright, honest, and cooperative with the US Attorney’s Office in their investigation.”
News about her gambling addiction was revealed three years ago. In 2019, Peterson was issued a summons for violating a self-imposed ban on entering a casino, WWL, a local TV station, reported. She had entered the L’Auberge Baton Rouge despite putting her own name on the exclusion list.
Peterson was in the Louisiana state senate for a dozen years before stepping down earlier this year. For 10 years, she was a representative in the state house. Last year, she lost a close congressional race to Republican Troy Carter. She also was Louisiana Democratic Party chair between 2012 and 2020.
On the national stage, Peterson was a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee between 2017 and 2021.
In connection with her role on the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Peterson had an influential role in gambling-related legislation. Legislation that came before her included bills on sports betting, relocating water-based casinos onto land, video poker rules, and mobile fantasy sports games, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.
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