Stonecrest, Ga. is one of metro Atlanta’s newest cities. Located very close to Atlanta, it received its charter in 2016. It is home to a 2,500 acre nature preserve and a shopping mall. Jason Lary, who pushed for the area to become a city, was its mayor until it was discovered that he had stolen $650,000 of COVID-19 relief funds. He has been convicted and sentenced to 57 months in prison for his crime.
WSB Radio reports that Lary used COVID relief money to pay off his personal debts, and he gave grants to churches and small businesses. It is also being reported that Lary gave other relief funds in exchange for kickbacks to companies he controls. For instance, he gave $150,000 to his church with the stipulation that they would return $50,000 to him.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said:
“Lary betrayed the trust placed in him by the citizens of Stonecrest by stealing the very funds meant to help his constituents whether the COVID-19 pandemic. The people of Stonecrest deserved better, and corrupt officials can expect severe consequences for using their offices to commit crimes.”
“Quite frankly folks, now it’s turned ugly. There was never an interest on anybody’s part to kick back or filter money back or any of that nonsense.”
Lary said in a city council meeting in September 2021:
“You don’t recognize Mayor Pro Tem and council and just leave me standing there like I’m not in the meeting. I will show you my hairy behind next time it happens and that’s the only warning I’m going to give with this.”
He then accused the council of trying to undermine him while he was undergoing treatment for colon cancer.
“What the mayor said was unacceptable and does not represent city council,” replied Mayor Pro Tem George Turner.
The city council voted to censure Lary in the aftermath of those remarks.
After initially saying he would plead not guilty, Lary pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on January 5, the same day his resignation took effect.
Following his sentencing on Wednesday, Lary apologized to his family and friend and to the city of Stonecrest, telling them, “I let us down.”
“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 Special Agent Keri Farley of the FBI’s Atlanta office. “This sentencing holds Lary accountable for abusing his position of trust and blatant disrespect for the law.”