Former Stonecrest mayor requests no prison time for fraud scheme

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Jason Lary faces up to 35 years in prison, says he’s made his life ‘a living hell of jail outside a jail’

The founding mayor of Stonecrest, who resigned in disgrace to plead guilty to a federal fraud scheme, is trying to serve his sentence from his couch.

Jason Lary, 60, is set to be sentenced July 13 for concocting a scheme to steal pandemic relief funds. His crimes carry a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison and three years of supervised release, but Lary is asking for the judge’s mercy.

In paperwork filed Wednesday by Lary’s attorney Dwight Thomas, the former mayor requested for his sentence to include no prison time. Instead, he’s asking for house arrest, community service and any other required supervision. Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Lary argued for the soft sentence by leveraging that he has no prior felony arrest, convictions or criminal history of any kind. He also said his crimes were financially motivated and were not violent, drug-related or physically harmful to others. In addition, Lary is battling his third round of cancer, which could factor into how Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash decides to go about punishment.

“Mr. Lary has serious health challenges and at age 60 the Defendant finds himself facing a legacy of criminal history that is and was ‘money motivated,’ the memo said.

»Read the recently filed court documents at the bottom of this story.

Lary resigned as mayor of Stonecrest on January 4 — a day before he accepted his plea deal. He admitted to participating in a scam to steal more than $650,000 through the use of shell companies and personal connections. He took money using the guise of COVID-19 relief programs for small businesses and churches and then used the funds to cover personal tax liabilities and pay off a lakehouse mortgage. Lary pleaded guilty to wire fraud, federal program theft and conspiracy to commit federal program theft.

He was supposed to be sentenced in May, but the judge granted him a delay so he could continue to participate as a federal witness, providing testimony and documents to prosecutors.

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In Wednesday’s memo requesting lenient sentencing, Lary said he “fessed up” to his crimes when confronted and “made good faith efforts to cooperate with the government.” He added that he participated in two days of debriefing, was financially deposed under oath for more than four hours and provided the government with “massive amounts of documents.”

Lary also argued that he “had an exemplary history of community service” throughout south DeKalb County, which included the founding of Stonecrest and the creation of the Lithonia Amphitheatre. The memo also said Lary has paid or will pay more than $40,000 toward restitution.

“Mr. Lary has been humbled, humiliated, isolated and treated like a leper since the Stonecrest City Attorney’s report was made public and followed with the instant charges,” the memo said. “He acknowledges himself as the cause but simply wants the Court to know that he has made his life ‘a living hell of jail outside a jail.’”

Lary is among two people charged in the fraud scheme. Lania Boone, a bookkeeper for the shell company used to embezzle the funds and the wife of a former city official, pleaded guilty in February to a conspiracy charge. She is set to be sentenced Aug. 15. Thrash is also the judge in her case.