Stonecrest, Ga. is one of metro Atlanta’s newest cities. Sitting just east of Atlanta in DeKalb County, voters agreed to charter the new city in 2016. It’s home to a popular 2,500 nature preserve and a mall, from which the city took its name.
One of the men who spearheaded the efforts to create the city of Stonecrest and who served as the city’s first mayor is going to prison for 57 months. A court sentenced Jason Lary on Wednesday for stealing $650,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.
WSB Radio reports that Lary used COVID relief money to pay off his personal debts, and he gave grants to churches and small businesses with the stipulation that they would give some of the funds back to companies connected to him. For example, he gave his church $150,000 and asked the church to give $50,000 of it to one of his companies.
“Lary betrayed the trust placed in him by the citizens of Stonecrest by stealing the very funds meant to help his constituents weather the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan said. “The people of Stonecrest deserved better, and corrupt officials can expect severe consequences for using their offices to commit crimes.”
As a grand jury and local television outlet Fox 5 began to investigate what was happening in Stonecrest, Lary denied any wrongdoing.
“Quite frankly folks, now it’s turned ugly,” he told reporters in April 2021. “There was never an interest on anybody’s part to kick back or filter money back or any of that nonsense.”