DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary was in federal court Wednesday facing charges related to the alleged misuse of the CARES Act funds.
Lary spoke exclusively to Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne inside the federal courthouse. His lawyers said this is all leading to a plea agreement.
Some of the allegations in the complaint filed against Lary and others acting for him say they falsely stated relief funds “would be used for home repair and rent support to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lary said his role in founding the city of Stonecrest was the highlight of his public career. Now he’s pleading not guilty to the accusations of misusing funds.
Prominent defense attorney Dwight Thomas told Winne that the criminal information filed against Lary is a prelude to a plea agreement.
“There won’t be a jury trial in this case,” Thomas said. “He accepts full responsibility.”
“The federal government are the ones that have the authority to investigate these criminal matters and I’m glad that they looked into this case and saw fit to do what was right,” said state Sen. Emmanuel Jones.
Court documents say Lary was “abusing the power and authority conferred on him as mayor of Stonecrest.”
The document said Lary devised a scheme to steal relief funds after they were granted to businesses and churches and that he told those businesses and churches that they had to contribute a portion of their relief funds to entities he controlled but didn’t tell them he controlled the entities.
The documents say Lary and others acting on his behalf defrauded relief fund recipients out of more than $650,000.
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A statement from Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said:
“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.”
Thomas said the mayor is very proud of the city of Stonecrest and suggested Lary’s next chapter is about rectifying the problems that have occurred.
Lary told Winne that as a founding mayor of Stonecrest, he wants the right settlement with the city so it can continue to grow and prosper.
“The city of Stonecrest has laid out a very convincing argument in terms of how money was misappropriated,” Jones said.
Lary told Winne off-camera, “My attorney and I are in the process of negotiating with the city of Stonecrest.”
He also indicated that he’s already talked to the governor and advised him of his intentions, though we do not know exactly what intentions the mayor was referring to.
Lary said he’s currently in treatment for his third occurrence of cancer.
A document indicates he was given an unsecured bond of $20,000 with several conditions, including continuing or actively seeking employment and passport surrender.
A statement attributed to FBI Atlanta special agent in charge Chris Hacker said:
“It is very troubling when an elected official, someone sworn to protect the community they serve, violates that oath by stealing relief funds intended to aid their community during a global pandemic.”
A second person is also charged in the case. Lania Boone of Decatur was arraigned on federal charges of conspiracy to steal relief funds. Boone is a bookkeeper who was hired to disburse the relief funds.
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