State Rep. Stephen LaRoque was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Raleigh accusing him of eight counts of theft and illegal financial transactions. The charges stem from LaRoque's handling of nonprofit entities he owned that loaned federal money to business owners who had trouble finding loans elsewhere.
LaRoque, 48, a Republican from Kinston, was chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee this past session. He was defeated in a primary election in May.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. The probe began after a series of articles published by the government watchdog group N.C. Policy Watch questioned his management of the nonprofits.
The Policy Watch investigation found LaRoque made loans to two fellow legislators, put relatives and close associates on the board of directors, paid himself up to $195,000 a year, made a $200,000 loan from the nonprofits to his for-profit company and didnâ€™t report that to the IRS.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, LaRoque declined to comment and referred calls to his attorney, Joseph Cheshire V in Raleigh.
Update: Cheshire's office released this statement:
"Representative LaRoque is proud of what he has accomplished with his non-profit corporations. The corporations’ work provided monies that led to new business, and led to hundreds of jobs for North Carolinians who would, otherwise, have been unemployed. Representative LaRoque has fully cooperated with the Government in its investigation and is very disappointed in the indictment that was handed down today. He believes that when this matter is fully aired, it will be shown that he did not violate the laws of the United States and he looks forward to presenting his case in court. Because this matter is the subject of litigation, and even in light of the Government’s indictment, which is as much of a piece of advocacy as it is a charging document, Mr. LaRoque will have no further comment."