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Attorney: Indicted lawmaker 'loaned money properly'

Posted August 6, 2012

— A former North Carolina state lawmaker appeared in federal court Monday on charges he used taxpayer money to buy personal items including jewelry, a house and Faberge eggs.

Former Republican Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Kinston made his first court appearance in Raleigh. The judge read the charges, described the potential penalties and explained LaRoque's rights.

"Rep. LaRoque looks forward to challenging these allegations and believes that, when he does, the public will see the work that he did was good work, and it was not work that was illegal," defense attorney Joe Cheshire said after the brief court hearing.

Stephen LaRoque with Joe Cheshire Indicted lawmaker faces federal fraud charges

LaRoque is accused of taking $300,000 loaned to his nonprofit company through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to help rural communities and giving it to another company he owned to pay for transactions that helped family members, such as buying a Greenville ice rink and jewelry for his wife and a rental house for one of his stepdaughters. A federal indictment also contends LaRoque transferred funds between the companies to ultimately pay for the personal items.

Cheshire said varied interpretations of complicated USDA loan rules will likely play into LaRoque's defense.

"Rep. LaRoque believes that he earned that money properly that he got and that he loaned money properly," Cheshire said.

LaRoque, 48, resigned last week after being indicted on four counts of theft through converting federal loan proceeds and four counts of engaging in monetary transactions with criminally derived funds. He lost his re-election bid in the May primary.

LaRoque was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond, and he was required to surrender his passport and submit a DNA sample.

Typically, a defendant can't contact potential witnesses in a criminal case, but federal prosecutors eased some of LaRoque's release requirements because his wife, stepdaughter and brother could become witnesses.

19 Comments

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  • judithfergerson Aug 7, 7:19 p.m.

    Boy the crooks in Raleigh are making defense attorney Joe Cheshire a very rich man. I predict LaRough will bring in the alford plea and walk

  • wildpig777 Aug 7, 2:13 p.m.

    well said dawg well said

  • starvingdog Aug 7, 12:49 p.m.

    A Republican elected official takes federal money while preaching against government spending, then diverts it to his own use, and then picks Joe Cheshire as his attorney...that alone makes this look and smell fishy! And here I thought that only Democrats were crooked...

  • Objective Scientist Aug 7, 12:00 p.m.

    Ha! Some friends of mine who are attorneys have always emphasized that one can NEVER be sure of what a jury will do... that there is no such thing as an "sure case". I'm not an attorney and have no idea of how the law and the specifics of this case are related, but... there is - without question - the proverbial "BAD SMELL" in this case. If what LaRoque did is indeed "legal" - one thing is sure - the laws that relate to what he did - are in desperate need of change. Furthermore, as an elected office holder, to do what he did - even if legal - comes from the "thinking" and "work" of someone with an imbecilic mind!

  • nonemeant Aug 7, 11:26 a.m.

    Whenever a lawyer gives the "my client believes he is innocent" defense, watch out! That is totally different from adamantly insisting "my client is innocent". This "the public will see the work that he did was good work" is just as laughable. But sadly, he may get over on some poor ignorant juror.

  • Rebelyell55 Aug 7, 10:19 a.m.

    I'm betting the Feds will prove different. Problem is, the sentence he gets won't fit the crime he committed against the ciitzens.

  • Bronco Aug 7, 10:09 a.m.

    BOTTOM LINE FOR ANY JURY..DID he take the money AND IF he did did..did he give it to relatives contrary to the letter of the LAW. Quite simple...just follow the money...

  • delilahk2000 Aug 7, 9:37 a.m.

    WHAT A JOKE HE IS, HE DESERVES TO BE BEHIND BARS JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE WOULD BE FOR STEALING MONEY....

  • Southern Discomfort Aug 7, 9:03 a.m.

    This is nonsense. LaRoque was the Tillis' ethics and rules man. Nobody should know better how to skirt the rules in legal manner than LaRoque, and I am sure he and his family deserved the salaries and subsidies from the federal money he was getting.

  • Sarge Aug 7, 8:49 a.m.

    "It's not the money he loaned, it's the money he took for himself and his family...."

    Exactly, trying to get your focus off the real issue.

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