Friday, February 11, 2022

Second guilty plea in theft of Stonecrest COVID-19 relief funds

A bookkeeper for the entity that administered federal COVID-19 relief funds for the City of Stonecrest pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit federal program theft.

Lania Boone was hand-picked by then-Mayor Jason Lary as bookkeeper for Municipal Resource Partners Corporation, Inc., an organization he formed to disburse $6 million allocated to the Stonecrest Cares Program and Small Business Program through a contract with the city.

Lary pleaded guilty last month to charges related to the theft of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act funds approved by the federal government in 2020 to respond to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeKalb County received $125 million in COVID-19 relief funds and $6.2 million was granted to Stonecrest by the county Board of Commissioners.

Prosecutors said Lary used funds to pay off a mortgage on a lakefront home as well as outstanding federal, state and local tax bills. They said he directed about $7,600 in stolen relief funds to pay college tuition and rent for Boone's son. 

"Lary's guilty plea was the first in righting the wrongs committed against the people of Stonecrest, who were wrongfully deprived of hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to provide COVID-19 relief," U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said.

"Boone's guilty plea further demonstrates our commitment to prosecuting those who seek to exploit COVID relief programs for their own gain," Erskine said.

Sentencing for Lary, who resigned as mayor in January, is set for May 2. Boone is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12. 

A special election to fill the mayor's position will be held later this year.