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REGIONALREPORT Eastern

The old ball and chain

Mixing love and money might cost former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque his freedom. The Kinston Republican resigned from the General Assembly in July after federal prosecutors charged him with eight counts of financial fraud related to two nonprofits he operated. The indictment claims he took money from his East Carolina Development Co. and Piedmont Development Co. — which are both based in Kinston and disburse U.S. Department of Agriculture loans to small, rural businesses — and funneled it through his management company to make illegal purchases. The largest alleged transgression? A $200,000 stake in a Greenville ice-skating rink his wife was purchasing. LaRoque claims it was a legitimate loan from his employer, but prosecutors call it fraud. They also say he took money to help buy a rental home, an ice resurfacer and jewelry, while paying himself a handsome six-figure salary despite a relatively small loan portfolio. LaRoque’s attorney, Joe Cheshire, defended his client in a statement. “The [nonprofit] corporations’ work provided monies that led to new business, and led to hundreds of jobs for North Carolinians who would, otherwise, have been unemployed.” LaRoque resigned from the House because, he says, he didn’t want to be a distraction.




Alleged puchases

$36,936                                                    
Jewelry — including Faberge eggs, necklaces and a diamond ring — from shops in Las Vegas, Virginia and Raleigh
$59,688
Cars, a 2005 Toyota Avalon in 2005 and a 2006 Toyota Tacoma in 2007

$200,000
Ownership stake in Bladez on Ice in Greenville

$50,000
Rent and purchase of ice resurfacers

$50,000
Rental home for stepdaughter

Briefs

LAURINBURG — Auto-parts maker FCC will expand its local plant, investing $57 million and adding 66 employees to its 140 here within three years. The company, a subsidiary of Japan-based FCC Co., makes ATV clutches and transmission parts.

WILMINGTON N.C. Ports Authority posted a $394,000 profit for the year ended in June, its first since 2008. Revenue rose 7% as the export of wood chips and other commodities boosted bulk-cargo volumes at its Wilmington and Morehead City ports.

MOREHEAD CITY —  Carteret General Hospital is seeking a certificate of need from the state to build a $20 million cancer center at its campus here. The hospital would move its medical- and radiation-oncology departments to the 33,225-square-foot center.

CLARKTON — A federal judge ordered hog producer Freedom Farms to pay $1.5 million in fines and restitution for discharging hog waste into a stream that leads to the Waccamaw River. Some of the money will go to preserve and restore water in the region.