Stephen LaRoque will find out his fate tomorrow, as a federal judge decides whether he should spend time in prison for stealing $300,000 from a federally-funded non-profit.
LaRoque, a former Republican state representative from Kinston who served in a leadership position, plead guilty earlier this year to the theft, shortly before a second trial was expected to start on criminal charges that he used two economic development non-profits he ran to fund a lavish personal lifestyle.
Court testimony for this first trial, in which convictions were thrown out because of juror misconduct, showed that LaRoque transferred money to and from the bank accounts of the East Carolina Development Company to pay for things like cars, replica Faberge eggs for his wife, a Greenville ice skating rink and a Zamboni ice resurfacer.
LaRoque had denied any criminal wrongdoing at the trial. Instead, he said he was owed the money as part of his salary from the non-profit run by a board made up for several years of himself, his wife and brother.
The non-profit group was funded with millions in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, as part of an anti-poverty rural lending program intended to offer loans to small businesses in rural area unable to obtain financial backing on their own.
The sentencing hearing will begin at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Greenville, in front of U.S. Senior District Court Judge Malcolm Howard.
LaRoque, who was indicted on federal charges in 2012, following a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation, agreed to pay back $300,000 in restitution in exchange for his guilty plea.
He faces a range of 2 years to 30 months in prison though Howard, the federal judge, could also opt to sentence LaRoque to probation, the punishment that LaRoque and his attorney are asking for.
“Stephen LaRoque is a broken man,” wrote Keith Williams, a Greenville defense attorney, in a memorandum asking for a probationary sentence. “After years of criminal prosecution, his political career is over, his financial standing has shriveled, and he and his wife face serious health issues as they advance in age.”