Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque will find out his fate this summer , with his sentencing on a criminal charge of stealing federal funds now pushed back to July.
LaRoque, a Kinston Republican and former co-chair of the powerful House Rules committee, plead guilty in January in front of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard to a charge of stealing $150,000 from federally-funded economic development groups he ran.
The other 11 charges he faced were dismissed as a condition of his plea agreement. He also agreed to repay $300,000 that prosecutors contend he stole from the non-profit he founded, East Carolina Development Company.
He was supposed to be sentenced on May 12, but the sentencing has been pushed back to the week of July 7. In motions filed in court, his attorney said LaRoque needed more time to provide financial information to the federal probation officials writing up the pre-sentencing report that Howard will use to decide LaRoque’s sentence.
LaRoque faces up to 10 years in a federal prison, as well as a fine of $250,000, on top of $300,000 he agreed to pay in restitution as a condition of his plea agreement.
The federal investigation into LaRoque began shortly after a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation 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 small non-profit’s board of directors, which approved generous pay packages of up to $195,000 a year 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 and his family’s personal use. He also approved business loans to close associates, including two fellow Republican lawmakers and his personal attorneys.
He resigned from the state legislature after his July 2012 indictment on the federal chages.
LaRoque, who had maintained his innocence up until recently, had one trial in 2013, but convictions in that case were set aside after a juror violated court rules and conducted his own research on tax laws during jury deliberations.
LaRoque entered his guilty plea in January, shortly before a second trial was slated to start up in February.