Greenville, N.C. — After fighting federal charges for more than two years, former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque quietly pleaded guilty Monday as part of a deal to get the rest of the case against him dismissed.
The Kinston Republican pleaded guilty in Greenville to aiding and abetting theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. He will be sentenced May 12, when he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors said LaRoque took $150,000 from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded nonprofit. A 2012 indictment alleged that he directed the money to friends and family and might have used some for campaign expenses.
He had maintained his innocence, arguing that the loans from the USDA to two nonprofits he directed were more like advances on money owed to him by the nonprofits and that the boards of the two organizations approved his actions.
LaRoque, who resigned his House seat in 2012 under pressure after he was indicted, was convicted in 2013 of four counts each of misuse of funds, money laundering and fraud, but the verdicts were thrown out after it was learned that a juror conducted outside research in the case.
A new trial had been scheduled for next month, and LaRoque was trying to get the case dismissed as recently as three weeks ago, alleging in a motion that prosecutors improperly extended the term of the grand jury that indicted him.
As part of the plea deal, he agreed to reimburse $300,000 to East Carolina Development Co., one of the nonprofits he headed.