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Judge denies LaRoque's request to not pay restitution

092717 Stephen LaRoque

Former State Rep. Stephen LaRoque leaves U.S. District Court in September 2017 followed by his attorney, Keith Williams, after a hearing regarding the amount of restitution he owes.

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By Beth Velliquette
The Daily Reflector

Friday, November 24, 2017

A federal judge has denied a motion from former State Rep. Stephen LaRoque that he should not have to pay another $123,000 in restitution that he owes.

LaRoque, from Kinston, was sentenced on July 8 to pay $300,000 in restitution plus a $5,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to using grant money that was slated for rural development to help pay for an ice skating rink in Greenville for his wife and stepdaughter and to purchase a house for another stepdaughter. He also was sentenced to two years in prison. He has served that sentence and been released.

In September, he came to court before Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard in U.S. District Court to argue that he should not have to pay the full $300,000. In September, he had paid $177,000 of the $300,000 through the sale of three houses and money he had in trust, but his attorneys argued that he should get credit for $67,000 he is owed from the Eastern Carolina Development Corporation (ECDC), where he worked, and credit for $98,000 for three houses that he was forced to sell by auction below their value.

“The court finds both arguments to be without merit,” Howard wrote in his decision. “As to the judgment against ECDC, the court notes the payee of the court-ordered restitution is not ECDC; it is the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development Program.”

So far, LaRoque has not received the $67,000, and he did not appeal the ruling in that judgment. “He may not now attempt to collaterally attack the judgment in this enforcement hearing,” the decision stated.

LaRoque also argued that when he was forced to sell three properties to help pay the restitution, they were not properly noticed and therefore they did not not bring sufficient value, and therefore the restitution should be offset by that loss. He claimed he should get $98,000 credit for the houses.

“The court finds this objection meritess,” the decision stated.

LaRoque’s wife, Susan LaRoque, entered into a contract with a realty company after LaRoque was given 120 days to attempt to sell the properties on his own. When they didn’t sell in 120 days, the LaRoques agreed to let the realty company auction them off. 

LaRoque was in prison during this time period, and his wife made no objection at the time of the sales.

In fact, the court noted, one of the properties that LaRoque claimed was sold at too low of a price was purchased by his stepdaughter. 

LaRoque also claimed that some of the items of property that was to be used for restitution did not belong to him, including 44 pieces of jewelry that he and his wife insured for $135,265 in April 2017. When U.S. Marshals went to his home in July 2017 to seize the jewelry, they found only one piece of jewelry, and there was no record that they had sold the other pieces of jewelry.

The judge found the argument that the jewelry should not be used for restitution because it belonged to his wife to be without merit because the property was acquired by his spouse while they were married.

LaRoque also asked that he be allowed to keep certain property that was sentimental but didn’t have much value, but he didn’t provide a list of that property, the judge wrote. The judge wrote that the government did not object to selling those items last if needed.

He also asked the court to enter an order that would protect him and his family from undue hardship, burden or expense.

“Based on the court’s findings, that the other objections are meritless, this objection is also denied,” Howard wrote. “The court does not find any undue hardship has been placed on defendant in light of the judgment entered against him which included restitution.”

Contact Beth Velliquette at bvelliquette@reflector.com or at 252-329-9566.

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