Stephen LaRoque, the former state representative accused of stealing $300,000 from federally-funded non-profits he ran, entered into a plea deal Monday.
LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, plead guilty to one count of theft of $150,000 from a program receiving federal funds. The remaining 11 counts he faced will be dismissed, according to the court docket.
LaRoque also agreed to pay back $300,000 in restitution to the non-profit he once led, the East Carolina Development Corporation, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The plea was offered Monday at the federal courthouse in Greenville. No prior announcement of the hearing was made on the docket for LaRoque’s case.
LaRoque, a co-chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, resigned from the legislature in July of 2012, shortly after he was indicted on the federal charges.
His sentencing will be on May 12, at the federal courthouse in Greenville before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard.
The charge LaRoque plead guilty to holds a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in prison. He could also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $250,000, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
LaRoque had been scheduled to go to trial next week, after convictions a jury handed down in a 2013 trial were set aside because of juror misconduct.
The federal investigation into LaRoque began shortly after a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation that found improprieties in his management of two economic development non-profits that received millions through a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending program. The non-profit’s board of directors, which approved generous pay packages for LaRoque, consisted of himself, his wife and brother for several years.
His indictment on federal charges accused him of taking more than $300,000 from the non-profit to buy, amongst other things, a Greenville ice skating rink, replica Faberge eggs, jewelry and cars for his personal use.
Up until Monday, LaRoque had maintained he was innocent of criminal wrongdoing, and that the money he was accused of stealing was owed to him.
Shortly after his indictment, he said he wanted to seek revenge and “make heads roll” at USDA if he managed to get a political appointment heading the state office of the agency he was accused of stealing from.
This post has been changed from the original to correct the maximum fine LaRoque could face, up to $250,000. The post may be updated as further information about Monday’s plea deal is made available.