NC House Rules Chair pleads guilty to federal charges, resigns seat

NC House Rules Chair pleads guilty to federal charges, resigns seat
House Rules Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) speaks from the House floor. (Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - House Rules Chairman David Lewis (R-Harnett) has been charged by federal prosecutors with making false statements to a bank and failure to file a tax return.

The charges were filed with a federal court in Charlotte on Wednesday. They come one day after former congressman and N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes was sentenced, along with a Durham billionaire and an associate, for their roles in a bribery scheme.

Federal prosecutors typically charge defendants by information instead of an indictment when they have arranged a plea deal.

Lewis abruptly announced last month that he would retire from the North Carolina House of Representatives. He resigned his office on Thursday afternoon, ahead of the charges being filed.

He has served as the chairman of the powerful Rules Committee under Speaker Tim Moore since 2015.

The charging document alleges Lewis withdrew roughly $65,000 from his campaign account and deposited it into an account in the name of NC GOP, Inc. That account, however, was controlled by Lewis and not the North Carolina Republican Party.

Prosecutors say Lewis then filed the money as a transfer to the NCGOP on his campaign finance records.

Documents filed late Thursday afternoon outlining the plea deal between Lewis and federal prosecutors show they will ask a judge to sentence Lewis to between zero and six months in jail; functionally requesting that Lewis be sentenced to probation.

A spokesman for Lewis issued the following statement after the charges were filed:

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.

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