N.C. Rep. David Lewis faces federal charges, plans plea

Published 5:36 pm Thursday, August 20, 2020

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH — North Carolina state Rep. David Lewis was accused Thursday of federal bank fraud and tax violations stemming from a scheme to transfer money from his campaign committee to help his ailing farm, according to documents.

Lewis, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee since 2015, said in a news release he’s entering a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Charlotte. A formal plea hearing is scheduled for next week, a court record says.

Lewis also resigned from the House. The Harnett County Republican already had announced last month he wouldn’t be seeking a tenth term this November.

A criminal bill of information filed on Thursday by prosecutors formally accuses of Lewis, 49, of making false statements to a bank and failing to file a 2018 tax return.

“The plea agreement signifies my commitment to put an unfortunate chapter behind me,” Lewis said in a news release. “These are my mistakes, and my mistakes alone. I am very sorry for these mistakes, and I apologize.”

Details of the plea agreement weren’t made public on Thursday. But a document released by prosecutors and signed by Lewis’ attorney laying out the facts for the agreement said that Lewis made $300,000 in transfers from his campaign account to his bank account for Lewis Farms between January and May of 2018. The campaign was later repaid in full.

In June and July of 2018, according to prosecutors, Lewis opened a bank account for an entity called “NC GOP, Inc.” and signed a document attesting it was a North Carolina corporation of which Lewis was president. But neither was true, the document says.

He subsequently deposited $65,000 in Lewis campaign checks, seemingly payable to the entity, in that bank account. Almost all of it ultimately went to Lewis Farms, the document says. Lewis later paid $65,000 from a personal bank account to the state Republican Party, in keeping with what he reported on his campaign reports, the court document said.

Recent financial troubles had surfaced for Lewis, especially after Hurricane Florence in 2018, which he said last year had caused “catastrophic damage.”

“Farming has been tough for me for the past six years in a row and the financial stress I’ve been under has been tremendous,” Lewis said in Thursday’s release. “However, that is the reality facing many family farms, and it does not excuse my mistakes.”