ATLANTA (AP) – A suburban Atlanta mayor pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges a day after announcing his resignation from office.
Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary on Wednesday pleaded guilty to wire fraud, federal program theft and conspiracy to commit federal program theft, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Lary, 59, was the first mayor of Stonecrest, a DeKalb County city of about 55,000 that was incorporated in 2017.
Lary cited his multiple battles with cancer when he announced his resignation, effective Wednesday morning.
Federal prosecutors said Lary asked businesses and churches that got some of Stonecrest’s $6.2 million in coronavirus relief funding to give portions of the money to three companies the mayor had created _ Visit Us, Battleground Media and Real Estate Management Consultants.
Lary said the companies would use the money for tourism promotion, advertising and rent assistance. But prosecutors say he funneled $650,000 of the funds to himself, using some to pay back taxes and the mortgage on his lake house.
An internal Stonecrest investigation found evidence of poor record keeping, misuse and the kickback scheme in Stonecrest’s program to distribute funds it received last year from the federal CARES Act program, the newspaper reported.
According to his plea agreement, Lary has agreed to cooperate with the government, provide records and testify at future trials, the newspaper reported. The judge allowed him to remain free on bond until his sentencing on May 2.
City leaders said they would discuss holding a special election for someone to complete Lary’s term at their work session on Monday.