Ex-Ga. Mayor Sentenced for 'Deplorable' Pandemic Crime

Jason Lary gets 57 months behind bars for pocketing COVID relief cash meant for Stonecrest
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2022 9:05 AM CDT
Ex-Ga. Mayor Sentenced for 'Deplorable' Pandemic Crime
Jason Lary speaks near Stonecrest Mall in Lithonia, Ga., on October 4, 2016.   (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

(Newser) – An "unsavory saga" has come to a conclusion in Georgia, where an ex-mayor is now headed to prison for nearly five years over a COVID relief funds scheme. On Wednesday, US District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. sentenced Jason Lary to 57 months behind bars for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city of Stonecrest, calling the 60-year-old's actions "absolutely deplorable," reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Per a release from the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the city of Stonecrest received a $6.2 million grant in July 2020 under the federal CARES Act to help local small businesses, nonprofits, and churches get through the pandemic.

However, according to prosecutors, Lary set up shell companies, hired bookkeeper Lania Boone to shield what he was doing, and funneled nearly $1 million to himself. That money was used to pay off the mortgage on his lakefront home in Macon, take care of car and roof repairs, and settle up past-due tax bills, per the AJC. Lary also directed nearly $8,000 to Boone to help pay for her son's college tuition and room and board, reports the New York Times. Last fall, DOJ authorities seized about $480,000 from two of Lary's fraudulent firms. On Jan. 4, Lary resigned from the mayorship of the city he'd helped incorporate in 2016, "the first majority Black city created by its own residents since Reconstruction," per the Times.

"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," says US Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan in the release. "The people of Stonecrest deserved better." Lary, who pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud, federal program theft, and conspiracy, himself apologized to Stonecrest's residents in court, noting, "I let us down," per the AJC. Lary was also ordered to pay restitution of almost $120,000. He has been allowed to defer his prison stay until Dec. 15 so that he can keep receiving treatment for his lymphedema and prostate cancer. Boone pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy and will be sentenced next month. (Read more Georgia stories.)

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