Ex-state lawmaker-elect avoids prison in embezzlement case

June 17, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island man who was elected to the state legislature but resigned before being sworn in has pleaded no contest to embezzling about $16,000 from an environmental nonprofit and using the money on his political campaign, prosecutors said.

Under terms of a deal reached with prosecutors, Laufton Ascencao, 27, pleaded Wednesday to felony embezzlement, failure to report campaign expenditures, and failure to have a duly appointed treasurer certify the accuracy of his campaign finance reports, according to a statement from the office of state Attorney General Peter Neronha.

He received a five-year suspended sentence with probation and was ordered to pay more than $13,000 in restitution. He has already paid nearly $3,000 in restitution.

According to prosecutors, Ascencao embezzled more than $16,000 from the Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club while he was serving as treasurer of the organization, and used some of the money on his 2018 campaign for state representaive.

The Bristol Democrat won the 2018 election, but resigned before taking the seat.

“The people of Rhode Island should be able to count on the integrity of their public officials in general, and particularly when it comes to campaign finance laws,” Neronha said in a statement.