Stephen LaRoque, a former high-ranking member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting theft at a federal court in Greenville on Monday.
LaRoque, who resigned his house seat after he was indicted in 2012, entered a plea as part of a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, allowing him to avoid a trial originally scheduled for next week. He will pay $300,000 in restitution and faces up to 10 years in prison, the attorney’s office said in a statement. Sentencing is scheduled for May 12.
LaRoque, a Republican from Kinston, was serving as co-chair of the powerful Rules Committee in 2012 when an investigation by the liberal non-profit group N.C. Policy Watch questioned how he was spending money collected by two non-profit organizations he ran. The organizations provided loans of federal money to rural businesses, and federal investigators traced the money to lavish personal expenses by LaRoque.
LaRoque maintained that the financial transactions were legitimate. A jury found him guilty in a 2013 trial on counts of misuse of funds, money laundering and fraud, but the judge threw out the verdict when it was learned that a juror conducted outside research in the case.
LaRoque will pay restitution to the East Carolina Development Company, a Kinston-based nonprofit that gives rural small businesses loans with money provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement. Prosecutors say that, LaRoque spent the money on things such as jeweled Fabergé decorative eggs and an ice skating rink in Greenville.