Louisiana Senator Gets 22 Months for Gambling Away Campaign Funds

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08 Feb

Former Louisiana Senator, Karen Carter Peterson, has been sentenced to 22 months in prison for misusing campaign funds. In August, she pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge and was sentenced by US District Judge Sarah Vance. The 53-year-old remains on bail and will begin her prison sentence on March 6, after surrendering her law license.

$147,357 Stolen to Feed a Gambling Habit

Investigators discovered that Peterson had used campaign funds to finance her addiction to gambling. She had taken money from her own campaign account and state Democratic Party coffers to gamble at casinos.

In total, she stole $147,357 over a seven-year period and received help from at least six people who would cash cheques for supposed campaign services, then return the money to her so she could gamble. None of these individuals have been charged, assumedly after assisting police in bringing down Peterson.

Before her sentencing, Peterson pleaded with the judge for leniency and her lawyers sought a punishment of home confinement or probation. The judge wasn’t prepared to be that lenient but the 22-month sentence she received was approximately half of the 41–51-month federal sentencing guidelines term.

Peterson has already paid restitution to the Democratic Party of $53,107 and has reimbursed the funds taken from her campaign account. She was also fined $115,000, with $94,250 of the sum due immediately.

After her release from prison, Peterson will be subject to supervised release for three years and must complete 600 hours of community service. The US Attorney’s Office released a statement saying that the public has the right to expect that politicians uphold the trust placed in them and that Peterson “broke the law, deceived contributors, and violated her duty to the voters and the political party with which she was affiliated on dozens of occasions.”

Peterson had no previous criminal record and spent over 22 years in the Louisiana Legislature. She was the Louisiana Democratic Party chair between 2013 and 2020 and had also unsuccessfully run for Congress twice. The public first became aware of Peterson’s long-running gambling addiction when she received a misdemeanor summons in February 2019 after gambling at a Baton Rouge casino despite being on a self-exclusion list.

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