Jury returns guilty verdicts in LaRoque trial
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- A federal jury convicted former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque Friday on charges that he took money loaned to his company through a federal program and gave it to another company he owned for transactions that helped family members.
The jury returned its guilty verdict after deliberations that spanned three days. LaRoque was calm and emotionless as the verdict was read in a Greenville courtroom.
LaRoque was released on $50,000 bond. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10.
The 49-year-old LaRoque was convicted on all 12 counts involving theft from a non-profit receiving federal funds, money laundering, false statements to cover up a scheme, and filing false tax returns.
Prosecutors said LaRoque took $300,000 from his East Carolina Development Co., which served as an intermediary for issuing loans through a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program, and putting the money in another one of his businesses, LaRoque Management Group.
The management group then wrote checks in 2009 and 2010 to help pay for an ice skating rink in Greenville for his wife and a stepdaughter and to purchase a house for a second stepdaughter to rent, according to an indictment. The activities violated U.S. Agriculture Department policies and the bylaws of East Carolina Development, the indictment said.
LaRaque and his attorney maintained he used money that belonged to him and blamed accounting and bookkeeping errors for issues leading to the federal investigation and subsequent charges.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.