Starting in 2015, Stephen LaRoque spent two years in a federal prison,
punishment for stealing from the federally-funded non-profit he ran.
Federal prosecutors believe LaRoque, who founded the East Carolina
Development Company in 1997, used the non-profit and a sister charity,
the Piedmont Development Company, to draw down millions in U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending money. He then used that money, in part, to pay himself large salaries and buy cars, jewelry, and property.
LaRoque had hoped to get a probationary sentence, but a Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcom Howard said he would not depart from the statutory guideline that called for a 24 to 30 month sentence. LaRoque was also ordered to pay back the $300,000 taken from the non-profit, and pay $5,100 in fines. He spent two years on supervised release following his prison sentence.
The federal prison sentence was a dramatic fall from power for LaRoque, who was a member of the Republican House leadership when they took control of N.C. General Assembly in 2011.
LaRoque, known for his outspoken and at times caustic demeanor, had been co-chair of the powerful House Rules Committee (a seemingly cursed position for the NCGOP).
Policy Watch’s investigation into LaRoque’s business dealings, discovered LaRoque had dipped into the bank accounts of the federally-funded East Carolina Development Group to buy cars, jewelry, real estate, a Greenville ice skating rink, a Zamboni ice resurfacer and jewelry and replica Faberge eggs as gifts for his wife.
The non-profits’ boards of directors were governed for several years by a board that consisted entirely of LaRoques – Stephen LaRoque, his wife Susan LaRoque and his brother Walter LaRoque, despite USDA regulations that prohibited such conflicts of interest. LaRoque was previously convicted of a dozen charges during a 2013 trial.