Ex-lawmaker to spend two years behind bars for theft
Posted July 8, 2015
Updated July 21, 2015
Greenville, N.C. — Three years after he was charged with redirecting federal funds from nonprofits to his family and friends, former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison.
U.S. Senior District Judge Malcolm Howard also fined LaRoque, a Republican from Kinston, $5,000 and ordered him to pay $300,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Federal prosecutors said LaRoque took $150,000 from a USDA-funded nonprofit created to provide loans to small rural businesses. According to a 2012 indictment, he funneled the money through his management company and used it for such things as investing in an ice skating rink in Greenville and buying rental property in Kinston.
LaRoque's attorney asked Howard not to send the 51-year-old to prison, saying that he's a broken man whose financial standing has "shrivelled" and that he and his wife have health problems and have suffered enough. Prosecutors argued, however, that LaRoque's problems are entirely of his own making.
A federal jury convicted him in 2013 of four counts each of misuse of funds, money laundering and fraud, but a judge later threw out the verdicts after it was learned that a juror conducted outside research in the case.
LaRoque maintained his innocence throughout, arguing that the loans from the USDA to the 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. He also challenged the authority of the grand jury that indicted him.
Weeks before his retrial was set to begin in Greenville, however, he pleaded guilty in January to aiding and abetting theft concerning programs receiving federal funds as part of a deal to get the rest of the case against him dismissed.
LaRoque resigned his House seat in 2012 under pressure after he was indicted. He must report to the federal prison camp in Butner prison within 30 days.