Stephen LaRoque was first elected to the NC House of Representatives in 2002 when North Carolinians elected a Republican majority looking for sweeping reform. His first act as an elected member was to form an alliance with Richard Morgan that would hand power immediately back to Jim Black and the Democrats.
LaRoque was defeated in the 2006 primary by Willie Ray Starling, who raised the first questions about LaRoque’s shady business dealings going back to the 90’s. Despite the building scandal, LaRoque ran again in 2008 but was defeated by the Democrat, Van Braxton, in the general election. He finally won back the seat in the Republican tide of 2010 while interest in his business dealings continued to build. Despite the looming scandal, House Speaker Thom Tillis made LaRoque a Co-Chair of the powerful Rules Committee. While we have not yet connected all the dots, Tillis has some history with Morgan, Black, Brubaker, and other powerful cronies of LaRoque. That may explain the high-profile appointment despite obvious problems.
Ultimately, LaRoque’s problems have caught up with him. After an extensive investigation, federal prosecutors have indicted him on multiple counts of money laundering, theft, and fraud. Apparently, LaRoque ran three businesses of which two dealt with federal grants and loans. Allegedly, he ran the money in circles through the multiple businesses ultimately enriching himself and helping political allies. At least two fellow legislators are known to have benefitted from loans granted by LaRoque’s companies – Debbie Clary and Mark Hilton.
LaRoque lost the 2012 Republican primary and on July 17, 2012 was indicted in Federal Court by a grand jury. On June 7, 2013, LaRoque was found guilty of all 12 charges. He faces up to 96 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for September 10.