LaRoque wants a new attorney in federal loan fraud case

Posted by Craig Jarvis on January 16, 2014 

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque wants to change attorneys in his federal loan fraud case.

In a motion submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard on Wednesday, LaRoque’s attorneys – Joseph B. Cheshire V and Elliot S. Abrams – said there is “a significant and fundamental disagreement” between LaRoque and the lawyers over strategy.

LaRoque wants to hire Greenville attorney Keith Williams, the motion says. Cheshire and his Raleigh law firm are one of the most prominent in the state. They say in the motion they have no problem with Williams taking over the case.

LaRoque was a high-ranking Republican lawmaker from Kinston until he was pressured to resign after he was indicted in 2012 on charges related to how he operated two nonprofit groups that provided loans of federal money to rural businesses that couldn’t get standard bank loans.

The indictment followed an investigation by N.C. Policy Watch that questioned how he spent the money, including paying himself a $150,000 a year salary and making loans to associates. Federal investigators traced the money to lavish personal expenses by LaRoque. He contended the financial transactions were legitimate and the government was misrepresenting them.

He was convicted in June 2013, but it was soon learned that a juror had done independent research despite the judge’s admonition not to. Howard threw out two tax-related convictions because of the juror’s misconduct.

But the defense attorneys argue that the remaining 10 convictions should also be dismissed because other jurors knew about the juror’s inappropriate research and that influenced the verdict.

A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Feb. 13 in Greenville. Howard has not yet ruled on the motion to change attorneys. That motion was first reported by Policy Watch.

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