RALEIGH — Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) submitted his formal resignation letter to House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) this afternoon. He had originally announced his intention to retire on July 24.
In addition to formally resigning his seat, Lewis was charged with two federal crimes in the U.S. Western District of North Carolina. According to the filings, Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for late filing of taxes and a felony charge related to making a false statement to a bank. The charges are related to transactions tied to Lewis’ campaign accounts.
Lewis, who represented Harnett County since 2003, issued a statement about the charges:
“Today’s agreement with the government signifies my commitment to put an unfortunate chapter behind me. The plea agreement is the result of my failing to file my 2018 tax return on time and my including a false statement on a bank form. These are my mistakes, and my mistakes alone. I am very sorry for these mistakes, and I apologize.
I was raised on a farm, and I’ve been a farmer all my life. But 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. However, that is the reality facing many family farms, and it does not excuse my mistakes.
I thank the people of Harnett County for the opportunity to serve them in the North Carolina House for the past seventeen and a half years. It’s been the honor of my lifetime. Today, I retire from public office. I am grateful for my family and our family farm.”
Attorney Josh Howard, of the Raleigh law firm Gammon, Howard, and Zeszotarski, is representing Lewis. who, during his tenue had served as the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.
Court documents filed today assert that Lewis’ campaign issued checks in the amount of $50,000 and $15,000 to the bank account of an entity called “NC GOP Inc.” This account was created by Lewis in 2018 and it was not affiliated with the NC Republican Party.
The expenditures to the NC GOP, Inc. account were reported by Lewis’ campaign as lawful contributions to the North Carolina Republican Party. Most of the money sent to the NC GOP, Inc. account was then transferred to Lewis Farms. Around $2,050 was made payable to Lewis’ landlord. Lewis’ farm had been under financial strain.
Once the transactions supporting Lewis’ farm business were complete, he closed the NC GOP, Inc. account and “at a later date” sent contributions in the same amounts to the actual NC Republican Party from a personal bank account.
Attention to Lewis’ finances came as a result of the investigation by federal authorities into the dealings of John Gray, who was involved in the bribery trial of Greg Lindberg, founder of Eli Global LLC and one of the state’s largest political donors.
Gray had loaned Lewis $500,000 in 2018 at a reported interest rate of 12%. It is unclear at this time if that loan has been repaid. This loan, however, is not the source of the charges Lewis pleaded guilty to.
Within days of the loan from Gray, Lewis secured a second loan, in the amount of $100,000 from a company owned by state Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson.) The second loan was short-term and has been repaid.
In June of 2019, Central Loans Inc. issued a $700,000 loan to Lewis. The status of repayment on that loan is unknown but is scheduled to end in late 2020.
This past March, jurors convicted Lindberg and Gray of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery. Lindberg was sentenced to 7 years on Aug. 19 and was also given a $35,000 fine. Later the same day, Gray was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
This is developing story and will be updated.