Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque will be find out his punishment in September for stealing from federally-funded non-profits he ran.
LaRoque’s sentencing hearing was set for Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. in the federal courthouse in Greenville, according to an entry made yesterday on the case’s docket. (Note: this post has been updated to reflect the most recent court date — Sept. 12)
He faces up to 90 years in prison, if the federal judge in the case hands him the maximum prison sentences he faces and then decides to stack the sentences.
LaRoque, a Kinston Republican in a leadership positions at the N.C. House of Representatives at the time of his indictment, was convicted in June of taking $300,000 from two economic development non-profits he ran in order to support his own lifestyle. LaRoque has consistently denied he did anything wrong, and testified that he viewed the money as compensation he was owed.
The non-profits were funded with more than $7 million U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending programs intended to combat poverty by providing loans to small businesses in rural areas of the state that commercial banks weren’t willing to lend money to. .
During the trial, federal prosecutor put on evidence showing LaRoque dipped into the non-profits’ bank accounts to buy cars, a Greenville ice skating rink, expensive jewelry and replica Fabergé eggs for his wife. He also stacked the non-profit’s board of directors with his wife and brother.
Earlier this month, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard set aside the verdict on two of LaRoque’s 12 guilty verdicts after finding out a juror had done outside research on tax law during deliberations.
The Sept. 10 sentencing hearing will be for the remaining 10 counts – four counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds, four counts of making monetary transactions with criminally-derived property, one count of covering up a crime, and one count of making false or fraudulent statements to USDA.
Prosecutors have the option of retrying LaRoque on the other two counts, which relate to falsifying tax returns, but have not indicated in court filings when that will happen.
LaRoque’s prosecution stemmed from a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation that found LaRoque received generous salaries from the small non-profits, East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company. The investigation also found that USDA had scant oversight of the rural lending program.