Former Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary spoke on WAOK Atlanta’s Rashad Richey Morning show on Jan. 6 – ahead of his prison sentence that includes four years in prison and three years of supervised release after being convicted of using his elected office to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated to the city.
Lary resigned from his post as mayor of Stonecrest on Jan. 5, 2021. On Jan. 6, 2023, Rashad Richey said Lary “is set to turn himself into prison next week.”
The charges relate to a scheme Lary was involved in that stole and facilitated kickbacks of COVID-19 relief funds that were distributed by the federal government in March 2020.
During the show, Lary admitted to orchestrating the kickback scheme but did not say that he knew the scheme was illegal.
“I did not make it a secret … the folks involved in this did not make it a secret that we asked [if] recipients of the COVID funds … on the application from the city … ‘would be willing to contribute 25 percent of this grant money back toward the marketing of your business?’ It wasn’t a requirement. … what the federal government charged is that that is defrauding the federal government,” said Lary.
“You asked the hardest question … of the year,” Lary continued. “Did I steal from the people of Stonecrest? Did I steal from my family and friends and that particular thing? No. In the eyes of the government, in the eyes of the Department of Justice, I stole from the government.”
However, federal prosecutors said Lary used three different methods to steal Stonecrest’s CARES Act funding and that the stolen funds were used to benefit Lary and his associates instead of the residents and businesses the funds were intended for. Federal prosecutors said Lary took money to pay for the mortgage on his lake front home, an associate’s political advertising, and his dues to the Georgia Campaign Finance Committee among other personal expenditures.
The United States also seized approximately $480,000 of fraud proceeds held in the bank accounts of Visit Us and Battleground Media, which prosecutors said were controlled by Lary and used in the kickback scheme.
Lary said he created the companies used in the fraud before the pandemic to be the marketing entities for city of Stonecrest; he claimed he did not create them specifically to steal funds.
“I think I was naïve in the fact that I thought I could mix business and politics. Under the given circumstances … it was a heavy lift. I made some mistakes,” said Lary. “One of the things I was charged for was for creating the entities to steal money from the federal government, but that was just not the case.”
Lary also said he wanted to apologize to Stonecrest residents.
“But I want to make this clear … I do owe the people of Stonecrest an apology. I’m regretful of it … I’m regretful because I put another Black man in the system by my own hand. I embarrassed us. I should have known better. I tried to seek help about it, but I couldn’t get that help,” said Lary.
Stonecrest’s former and first mayor also said he wasn’t happy with his sentence.
“I’m 61 years old … given the amount of time and service I’ve put in to create and deliver the city of Stonecrest for the people in this area … given the fact of the like sentences I’ve seen in regard to this type of situation, I thought it was heavy handed,” added Lary.
Lary was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $119,607.69.
The full interviewed can be heard at: audacy.com/waok/news/local/i-made-some-big-mistakes-says-former-ga-mayor-before-going-to-federal-prison-interview-rashad-richey-morning-show.