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Patrick Cannon2Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest on bribery charges yesterday is, of course, just the latest in a long line such events in modern American (and North Carolina) history. Indeed, political corruption arrests and prosecutions are such a part of our story that one can easily spend the day perusing lists of political crooks that have been complied by various media outlets and good government websites.

Here, therefore, to save you from that temptation, are a few of the most recent and interesting lists:

First off, it’s worth noting that, thanks to the FBI, Cannon is part of a list of politicians arrested yesterday. As the Washington Post reports, FBI stings also reeled in a California state senator and a New York assemblyman.

Wikipedia, quite helpfully, has three lists – one for federal politicians, one for state and local and one entitled “List of state and local political scandals.” The second list is also organized by state  and North Carolina – home to Stephen LaRoque, Jim Black and Meg Scott Phipps — holds its own but doesn’t really stand out.  As is often the case with Wikipedia though, all three are incomplete. Perhaps you can suggest an addition or two.

And if you think things are bad here, check out this list published in the New York Times last year entitled “The Many Faces of State Political Scandals,” which features 32 New York officials convicted of a crime, censured or otherwise accused of wrongdoing over the past seven years, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group. Read More

Former state lawmaker Stephen LaRoque will get another chance to convince an Eastern North Carolina jury he did not steal $300,000 from a federally-funded economic development group he ran.

Federal agents believe he used the money for personal extravagances like replica Faberge decorative eggs and an ice skating rink.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was convicted in June on a dozen theft and money laundering charges fraud  related to the accusations, but Greenville television station WNCT reported that Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard ruled in court today that LaRoque could have a new trial.

Howard allowed for a new trial after a juror admitted conducting Internet research on IRS tax rules during the course of last year’s criminal trial, a violation of court rules that require jurors to only consider evidence heard in a courtroom.

No trial date has been set.

WNCT
LaRoque has maintained he committed no crimes, and told jurors when he testified in last spring’s trial that he did not keep detailed business records and that all the money he was accused of stealing was owed to him.

Howard will also hold another hearing in LaRoque’s case next Tuesday, and will decide whether to approve the former lawmaker’s request to hire  Greenville attorney Keith Williams after a “fundamental disagreement” emerged between LaRoque and Raleigh criminal defense attorney Joe Cheshire about how to proceed in the case.

LaRoque is also looking to lift a hold by federal authorities on property he inherited in order to pay legal bills.

From the late 1990s until his 2012 indictment, LaRoque ran both East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, two groups funded as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that gives business loans to struggling small businesses in impoverished rural areas.

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There’s another delay in the federal criminal case of former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, with a hearing for a new trial pushed back to Sept. 24.

LaRoque, who was convicted by a jury in June of stealing from federally-funded non-profits he ran, wants a new trial after a juror said he voted to convict the former lawmaker in a trial this spring only after doing independent research on tax laws. Jurors are barred from considering evidence or testimony outside of what was presented in court.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican and onetime member of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, is facing a likely prison sentence and was initially scheduled to be sentenced Thursday on 10 of the 12 federal charges. Two of the other charges had been previously set aside by a federal judge because of the juror misconduct.

The new hearing will be at 10 a.m. on Sept. 24 at the federal courthouse in Greenville, in front of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard, who has presided over the case.

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A jury could decide this afternoon if former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque stole $300,000 from federally-funded non-profits he ran or if the money was his to begin with.

Convictions on the more than dozen charges LaRoque faces could mean a maximum 90-year prison sentence.

“This case is about a simple money grap,” said Dennis Duffy, the federal prosecutor in the case, to jurors.

LaRoque

LaRoque

LaRoque’s attorney, Joe Cheshire, disagreed, saying, “”If he did, then all the money he took was his own money.”

LaRoque, 49, a Kinston Republican who stepped down from the House of Representatives following his July 2012 indictment, is accused of dipping into the bank accounts of two U.S. Department of Agriculture economic development groups to fund extravagant purchases like expensive jewelry and a Greenville ice skating rink business.

LaRoque founded both of the economic development groups, East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, and took in nearly $2 million in compensation since 1997. The groups had taken in received $8 million in USDA loans as part of an anti-poverty program that loaned out money to small businesses in struggling rural areas.

Prosecutors contend that LaRoque saw the non-profits as his own companies, stacked the boards with his immediate family members and illegally used the federally-sourced funds to buy two cars, a house, a Greenville ice skating rink, expensive jewelry and replica Faberge eggs.

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Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque told jurors that he made mistakes running two economic-development non-profits, but did not intentionally steal from the federally-funded charities.

“I made a lot of mistakes,” LaRoque told jurors. “I admit that.”

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who served as a member of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team until his 2012 indictment, is facing 12 criminal counts in a federal trial being held at the federal courthouse in Greenville. The federal probe stemmed from an August 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation that found LaRoque received generous salaries from the non-profit’s board of directors consisting of his immediate relatives.

Jurors have listened to more than two weeks of evidence about complex and complicated financial transactions and will begin deliberations on LaRoque’s guilt or innocence tomorrow.

He’s accused of using the bank accounts of the Kinston-based non-profits, East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, to fund a lavish lifestyle including new cars, a Greenville ice-skating rink, a house, jewelry and replica Faberge eggs. LaRoque says he is innocent of any wrongdoing and any money in question was owed to him through contracts approved by his board of directors (who consisted for many years of himself, his wife and brother).

He faces more than 90 years in prison, if the jury were to convict him on all 12 charges.

On the stand Tuesday, LaRoque said he didn’t report all of his generous terms of his salary to auditors, accountants and the IRS but instead kept that money in East Carolina Development Company’s accounts with the assumption that he could withdraw it whenever he wanted.

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