ATLANTA — Former Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary was sentenced to 57 months in prison Wednesday after he stole more than $650,000 in COVID-19 relief funds meant for the recovery of businesses, churches and the people of the city.
“Lary betrayed the trust placed in him by the citizens of Stonecrest by stealing the very funds meant to help his constituents weather the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said. “The people of Stonecrest deserved better, and corrupt officials can expect severe consequences for using their offices to commit crimes.”
In January, Lary pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal program theft and federal program theft. He also resigned as the city’s mayor.
Federal prosecutors said that in addition to paying off personal debt, Lary conducted a scheme where he asked small businesses and churches to whom he allocated grants to give 25% of the money to companies connected to himself and co-conspirators.
One of the grants was to his church, which he awarded $150,000. He then asked the church to give $50,000 back to one of the companies included in the scheme.
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Lary previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, but his attorney, Dwight Thomas, indicated on Nov. 10 that he would take a plea deal.
In court on Wednesday, Lary apologized to his family, friends and Stonecrest residents.
“I let us down,” he told the court, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“It is extremely disheartening when an elected official, someone sworn to protect the community they serve, violates that oath by stealing relief funds intended to aid their community”, said Keri Farley, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “This sentencing holds Lary accountable for abusing his position of trust and blatant disrespect for the law.”
Lary was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution as well.
He does not have to report to prison until Dec. 15, so he can continue treatment for prostate cancer.
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