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LaRoque in federal court this morning on theft charges

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque is expected to appear in a federal courtroom this morning, his first hearing to answer to charges that he stole federally-sourced funds from two economic development non-profits he ran.

He’s scheduled to appear in court at 10 a.m., at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, according to court records.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who up until recently served in a leadership role in the state legislature, stands accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company. He resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives following the July indictment on eight charges related to the mismanagement of his non-profits by a federal grand jury.

The non-profits, both funded by LaRoque, were part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program intended to combat poverty by allowing public charities to offer loans to struggling small business that couldn’t get loans from commercial banks.

But instead of doing that, federal prosecutors believe that LaRoque used the federal dollars to help finance his personal life, including buying reproduction Faberge eggs for his wife, a Greenville ice-skating rink, a car and thousands of dollars. (Click here to read our story about the July indictment.)

LaRoque was the subject of an N.C. Policy Watch investigation “Public Money, Personal Gains,” published in August 2011 that found LaRoque earned high salaries while his brother and wife served in key roles as the non-profit’s board of directors. The investigation found USDA’s oversight of LaRoque’s non-profits was lacking.

Over the weekend, the News & Observer published an article about an internal USDA report that found the federal agency’s North Carolina office had been lax in its oversight of the lending program LaRoque was a part of. The state reported $34.6 million in lost federal loans, according to the internal report obtained by the N&O.

We’ll be at this morning’s hearing, so check back with N.C. Policy Watch to find out what happened at this morning’s court hearing.

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