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Ex-NC Lawmaker Pleads Guilty To Federal Theft Charge

Stephen LaRoque
North Carolina General Assembly

Stephen LaRoque, a former high-ranking member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting theft at a federal court in Greenville on Monday.

LaRoque, who resigned his house seat after he was indicted in 2012, entered a plea as part of a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, allowing him to avoid a trial originally scheduled for next week. He will pay $300,000 in restitution and faces up to 10 years in prison, the attorney’s office said in a statement. Sentencing is scheduled for May 12.

LaRoque, a Republican from Kinston, was serving as co-chair of the powerful Rules Committee in 2012 when an investigation by the liberal non-profit group N.C. Policy Watch questioned how he was spending money collected by two non-profit organizations he ran. The organizations provided loans of federal money to rural businesses, and federal investigators traced the money to lavish personal expenses by LaRoque.

LaRoque maintained that the financial transactions were legitimate. A jury found him guilty in a 2013 trial on counts of misuse of funds, money laundering and fraud, but the judge threw out the verdict when it was learned that a juror conducted outside research in the case.

LaRoque will pay restitution to the East Carolina Development Company, a Kinston-based nonprofit that gives rural small businesses loans with money provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement. Prosecutors say that, LaRoque spent the money on things such as jeweled Fabergé decorative eggs and an ice skating rink in Greenville.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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