Feds say convicted ex-lawmaker hiding assets to avoid paying restitution

Posted September 20

— Federal prosecutors have accused former state House member Stephen LaRoque and his family of hiding thousands of dollars in assets to avoid paying the restitution a judge ordered when he was convicted two years ago.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who resigned his House seat under pressure after his 2012 indictment, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some of LaRoque's property was sold at auction, and money held in trust by an attorney was turned over to authorities, but according to recently unsealed court documents, he still owes about $122,000 in restitution.

LaRoque has insisted that he is unable to pay off the rest of what he owes the government, but federal authorities say he simply doesn't want to do so.

"Defendant has the assets to satisfy his court-ordered restitution. But instead of using them to do so, Defendant has spent the last year concealing them from the Government," federal prosecutors state in an Aug. 30 filing. "He may not now argue that the assets he could not hide or dissipate before the Government came calling are insufficient to satisfy his court-ordered restitution."

Authorities allege that LaRoque conspired with his wife to hide money and other assets while behind bars. He was released from prison in May.

Susan LaRoque pulled $40,000 out of an IRA in September 2015 and then wrote checks totaling more than $27,000 to herself, her business and Stephen LaRoque's stepdaughter, according to the Aug. 30 filing. The following month, she withdrew another $7,500 from the IRA and wrote more checks to herself and Stephen LaRoque's stepdaughter, the filing states.

The stepdaughter used some of the money she was given to pay closing costs on one of the LaRoque properties sold to help pay the restitution, according to the filing.

"[F]or Defendant to claim the property was sold in an unreasonable manner is completely absurd," the filing states. "Aside from the fact he agreed to the manner in which the property was sold, one of the properties ... was purchased by his stepdaughter with his money, fraudulently transferred to her by his wife from the joint bank account in which his wife had fraudulently concealed it from the Government."

Authorities also contend that the LaRoques have hidden jewelry, noting in the filing that they insured 44 pieces of jewelry for $135,000 in April, but U.S. marshals could find only one piece when they searched the house in July to seize property to satisfy the court-ordered restitution.

Stephen LaRoque pleaded guilty to diverting $150,000 from a USDA-funded nonprofit created to provide loans to small rural businesses, funneling the money through his management company for such things as investing in an ice skating rink in Greenville and buying rental property in Kinston.

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, who is scheduled to appear in federal court in Greenville next Tuesday for a hearing in the case, repeatedly insisted he had committed no crime and that the prosecution was "a witch hunt carried on by my political opponents."


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