Stonecrest Mayor, Jason Lary, resigned at 10:00 AM Wednesday, one hour before he would enter a not guilty plea at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building on charges related to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Lary, 57, touted his accomplishments on a zoom call with the Stonecrest City Council.
“Frankly folks, I gave the last 10 years of my life to this, and I wouldn’t take it back one day,” Lary said during the virtual meeting. “I’m proud to be the visionary. I’m proud to be the leader.”
In March 2020, former President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act into law in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the CARES Act, the federal government distributed COVID-19 relief funds to individual Americans, federal agencies, and state and local governments, including $125 million to DeKalb County.
“Lary allegedly abused the power and trust conferred on him as Mayor of Stonecrest to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for COVID-19 relief,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “Instead of providing aid to Stonecrest’s deserving citizens, Lary allegedly diverted funds for his own use, including to pay off his taxes and the mortgage on his lakefront home.”
According to the indictment, Stonecrest did not disburse the $6 million allocated to the Stonecrest Cares Program and Small Business Program. Instead, the city contracted with Municipal Resource Partners Corporation, Inc. (“MRPC”) to provide accounting services and to disburse the relief funds as directed by Stonecrest. Before the contract was signed, Lary allegedly worked behind the scenes to assist MRPC, including by recruiting its CEO, opening its bank accounts, and ensuring that Lania Boone would be hired as MRPC’s bookkeeper.
In or about November 2020, Stonecrest published an application on its website for businesses to apply for relief funds under the Small Business Program. The application included the question, “Are you willing to allocate 25% of your grant to marketing your business?” Hundreds of businesses applied for relief funds, but most of the applicants were rejected. From about November 2020, until or about February 2021, Lania Boone signed dozens of checks on behalf of MRPC, directing millions of dollars of relief funds to individuals, businesses, churches, and non-profit organizations. Lary allegedly helped decide where the relief funds were directed.
Prosecutors claim Lary pocketed $650,000, using some of the money to pay off the $108,000 mortgage on his lake house, and other funds to pay back taxes.
Lary’s defense attorney, Dwight Thomas, said the mayor would not contest the charges. Thomas previously told the Associated Press, “He accepts full responsibility, and there won’t be a jury trial.”
Lary is the first mayor of Stonecrest, a town that was formed in 2017, carved out of portions of Lithonia and eastern DeKalb County.