Steven LaRoque, the former Kinston state lawmaker facing federal charges of stealing from two federally-funded non-profits he ran, will find out this week if a judge agrees the dozen criminal charges in the case should be thrown out.


Steven LaRoque, at a 2011 press conference.

A pre-trial motions hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow at the federal courthouse in Greenville, will be a sealed hearing and closed to the public, according to an order filed by Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard.

LaRoque’s trial – his second, after the first ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct — is scheduled to begin on Feb. 2.

The Kinston Republican is accused of taking $300,000 for his personal use from an economic development group he ran that was funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural business lending program. LaRoque is also facing accusations that, instead of funding struggling businesses to spur economic growth, he used federal money to offer loans to personal associates and political allies, and then took money to fund his campaign and buy jewelry, replica Faberge eggs and a Greenville ice skating rink.

The federal investigation began shortly after N.C. Policy Watch published a 2011 investigation into LaRoque’s management of the federally-funded non-profits.

LaRoque, a former member of House Republican leadership team, has maintained he is innocent of criminal wrongdoing, and that the money in question was owed to him.

Howard wrote in his Jan. 6 order (scroll down or click here to read) that he is sealing the hearing and closing it to the public in order to hear confidential information that may come up in response to a motion LaRoque filed seeking information about the grand jury that indicted him.

Grand jury proceedings are, by design, secret and details about the inner workings of the groups are very rarely released to the public.

“This hearing will be sealed due to the potential for disclosure of grand jury documents or other materials,” Howard wrote.

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Stephen LaRoque, the former state representative from Kinston facing charges of stealing from a federally-funded non-profit, warned that he would seek revenge shortly after his 2012 indictment, according to recently filed court documents.



LaRoque, a Republican from Kinston, is facing a dozen charges related to $300,000 that federal prosecutors contend he took from an economic development group funded through a rural lending project in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to buy things like replica Faberge eggs, cars and a Greenville ice skating rink.

The federal probe into LaRoque began after a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch report about LaRoque’s non-profit, that found he received generous salaries from the federally-funded non-profit from a board of directors that for several years consisted of LaRoque, his wife and brother.

He has denied any wrongdoing, and has previously said the $300,000 in question was owed to him.

George Vital, a USDA program official that oversaw parts of the rural lending program spoke with LaRoque shortly after the July 2012 indictment. LaRoque, according to Vital, wanted to have top officials at North Carolina Rural Development office fired and thought he could do that if his preferred 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was elected.

LaRoque’s threats were detailed in a motion filed by federal prosecutors Friday, and included in a summary federal agents wrote up about a July 2012 interview with Vital.

Vital had been upset that he was bypassed for a promotion at USDA, and called LaRoque the day after the indictment to talk about Bruce Pleasant, who oversaw the rural lending program in the state, and Randall Gore, the appointed head of the USDA’s Rural Development office for North Carolina.

From court documents:

VITAL explained that he told LAROQUE about his [Mr. Vital’s] administrative complaint against GORE [the presidentially appointed North Carolina RD Director] and PLEASANT. VITAL was upset that he [rather than Pleasant] did not get promoted into the position being occupied by PLEASANT.

LAROQUE complained about PLEASANT and wanted to know how to get PLEASANT and GORE fired from their respective jobs. LAROQUE asked VITAL to pull any records on bad loans that PLEASANT may have been involved with. VITAL said LAROQUE was talking about becoming the RD State Director if Newt Gingrich was to win the nomination and get elected as president. LAROQUE was working to get Gingrich elected and this would help LAROQUE get the people at RD fired. LAROQUE would make heads roll at RD if things worked out for him and the election.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced yesterday that North Carolina health officials successfully cleared a backlog of food stamps cases that had been in the tens of thousands last year following issues with a statewide technology system.

At stake was $88 million in federal funding, which USDA, which oversees the national SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), said it would consider rescinding if the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services didn’t quickly clear the backlog.

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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement Tuesday saying it believed the agency “reasonably achieved” a deadline to clear the state’s backlog of pending food stamp cases.

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos  wrote in a letter Tuesday to USDA Regional Director Robin Bailey that the backlog was down to 375 cases, including in Guilford County where a previously unknown backlog of 8,100 cases was discovered last week.

“We have made tremendous efforts to meet the March 31, 2014 deadline and have implemented strategies to ensure that the workload requirements are met and families will receive timely benefits,” Wos wrote.

The state had seen backlog grow to as high as 20,000 to 30,000 food stamp cases with families waiting for weeks and months following the troubled launch last year of a new online-based benefits delivery system  called N.C. FAST.

USDA, which oversees the nation’s food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) called the delays in North Carolina “unacceptable” and threatened in December and January to rescind $88 million in federal funding if the state didn’t quickly clear the backlog.

Check back with N.C. Policy Watch tomorrow, where we’ll have a more extensive article about the food stamps backlog, new budget concerns and interviews with some affected families.

Click here to read Wos letter. You can see pending  caseload data here and here.

Usda April 1 2014 by NC Policy Watch



The head of Guilford County’s social services department announced his resignation Monday, days after a previously unknown backlog of 8,000 food stamp recertification cases was discovered Wednesday.

NC FAST logoRobert Williams resigned following a meeting Monday, according to the Greensboro News & Record, and explained his departure with a quote from a 1986 hit single of Janet Jackson’s.

“I felt it was best for me and best for the board,” Williams told the News & Record. “I feel like we’ve done some good work, done some good things while I’ve been here. But sometimes, to quote Janet Jackson, it’s ‘What have you done for me lately?”

The Guilford backlog, which was estimated to be at 8,100, last Wednesday, was down to a manageable few dozen cases today, according to the News & Record.

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