Ex-NC lawmaker gets probation for campaign money scheme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A former North Carolina state lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to probation and ordered to pay a fine for an unlawful scheme to siphon campaign dollars to his family farm.

David Lewis, the former chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee and author of Republican redistricting plans during the 2010s, had pleaded guilty to two counts nearly a year ago. He resigned from the General Assembly the same day the accusations and the plea agreement became public.

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn sentenced Lewis to two years of supervised release, which is similar to probation, and a $1,000 fine, according to information provided by the U.S. attorney’s office in Charlotte.

Federal prosecutors recommended in May that he receive no prison time. Lewis’ attorneys had made a similar request, writing at the time that his wrongdoing was “an act of desperation rather than greed.”

According to the plea agreement, Lewis acknowledged taking $65,000 from his campaign coffers in 2018 and putting them in a bank account he opened using a fictitious entity whose title appeared similar to the state Republican Party. That money was then used by Lewis Farms and to pay the rent on his home.

Lewis, from Harnettt County, later repaid his campaign account and sent $65,000 in funds to the state Republican Party as he had reported on state campaign finance reports.

He pleaded guilty in August 2020 to making false statements to a bank — a felony — and for failing to file a 2018 federal tax return.

Earlier in 2018, Lewis made about $300,000 in transfers from his campaign account to his bank account for his farm, according to court documents. The campaign was later repaid in full, but the expenditures weren’t reported to the State Board of Elections. Those actions were not part of the plea.

In a court document, attorneys described Lewis, 50, as someone trying to save his fourth-generation family farm after damage from two hurricanes while being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and seeing his legislative responsibilities expand.