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Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque will testify next week to defend himself in his federal criminal trial.

He is accused of stealing from the federally-funded economic development non-profits he ran.

Joe Cheshire, the Raleigh criminal defense attorney representing LaRoque, said he plans on calling LaRoque, his wife Susan LaRoque and former state Sen. Debbie Clary when federal prosecutors finish presenting their case in the jury trial behind held at the federal courthouse in Greenville.

Clary had served on the board of Piedmont Development Company and stepped down from the board to take out a business loan for her marketing company.

LaRoque

LaRoque

Federal prosecutor Dennis Duffy is continuing to call witnesses today.

LaRoque, 49, a former member of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, is facing a dozen charges in the complicated criminal trial where he stands accused of taking $300,000 from an economic development non-profit funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending program.

Federal prosecutors, in their lengthy 77-page indictment, accuse LaRoque of using East Carolina Development Company’s money to fund his own lifestyle, including buying cars, jewelry, replica Faberge eggs, a Greenville ice-skating rink and a Zamboni ice resurfacer for the rink.

LaRoque has plead not guilty to the charges, and Cheshire has argued that LaRoque was entitled to the monies in question as part of his compensation. Cheshire has also taken aim at the USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program, saying it had confusing, and conflicting, rules about how the federally-sourced money should be used.

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A federal judge denied former state lawmaker Stephen LaRoque’s requests this week to dismiss charges related to $300,000 that federal prosecutors believe he stole from two federally-funded non-profits.

The orders issued Monday and Wednesday by Senior United States District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard clear the path for LaRoque’s May 20th trial at the federal courthouse in Greenville, where a jury will decide his guilt or innocence on the allegations.

LaRoque-PCLaRoque, a Kinston Republican who resigned his legislative seat following his 2012 indictment, faces possible prison time, if jurors elect to convict him.

N.C. Policy Watch first raised questions about LaRoque’s excessive compensation from the non-profits in an August 2011 investigation, “Public benefits, personal gains,” and a federal grand jury began its own probe a month later by issuing subpoenas to LaRoque for records. The two non-profits were part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program seeking to combat poverty by creating a mechanism to offer loans to small business owners that traditional banks shunned. Instead, the investigation found LaRoque received generous salaries from a board of directors that consisted of his immediate family members while close associates of LaRoque’s received loans.

Howard’s orders to uphold the charges were filed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and let 10 of the 12 charges LaRoque faces stand. He also ordered that witnesses for both the defense and prosecutions except for the two FBI case agents be sequestered during the trial, meaning they can’t talk be in the courtroom during testimony nor share their own testimony.

Howard has not yet ruled on a final motion from LaRoque to dismiss two additional counts of falsifying tax reports. Read More

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The federal trial of former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque on charges of money laundering and stealing federal funds has been pushed back to later this spring.

His trial is now scheduled for the week of May 14  in front of U.S. Senior District Judge Malcolm Howard, according to an order signed Friday by Malcolm. The previous trial date had been in February.

LaRoque

LaRoque

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was a state legislator in a prominent leadership role when he was indicted last July on eight counts of theft of government funds and money laundering. He resigned soon after the indictment was handed down by a Raleigh-based federal grand jury.

The federal investigation followed the publication in August 2011 of an N.C. Policy Watch investigation that found he received plush salaries, stacked the board of directors of the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company with immediate family members and arranged loans of U.S Department of Agriculture money from his two non-profits to two other state lawmakers and other close associates.

The July indictment accuses LaRoque of using the non-profits to help fund a lavish lifestyle that included buying replica Faberge eggs for his wife, cars, a house for a step-daughters and a roller-skating rink for his family members.

A federal grand jury handed down four additional charges of fraud and tax evasion in December, and LaRoque’s defense attorney Joe Cheshire will need more time to go over new evidence, wrote Dennis Duffy, the assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case.

 

 

Continuance motion for Stephen LaRoque trial by ncpolicywatch