Steinburg aide pleads guilty to larceny, must repay $25K
By Jon Hawley
Thursday, December 6, 2018
State Rep. Bob Steinburg's legislative assistant has pleaded guilty to stealing from her former employer, Pigman's Bar-B-Que in Dare County, District Attorney Andrew Womble confirmed on Wednesday.
Diana London pleaded guilty in Dare County Superior Court to a misdemeanor larceny charge and will make full restitution to Pigman's Bar-B-Que in the amount of $25,000, Womble said in a phone interview. The $25,000 is how much London admitted stealing from her then-employer over 2017, and she is to pay $10,000 of that sum by Dec. 10, and the rest by May 10, 2019, he said.
London's plea is in exchange for the district attorney's office dropping a felony embezzlement charge against her, Womble said.
London could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Steinburg stood by London when the indictment occurred, calling it a “contract dispute” between London and Pigman's. He also noted the allegations against London involved matters that happened before she started working for him in February.
In a phone call Wednesday, Steinburg said it was "very disappointing" the district attorney got involved in what the lawmaker called a civil matter. He said he stands by London and said she will continue to work for him.
"I have every confidence in her," Steinburg said.
Steinburg claimed the allegations and prosecution against London were purely "political" and he said opponents of his had "weaponized" the judicial system against London.
"I think the judicial system failed miserably" in the case, Steinburg said.
Though suggesting Womble had been used, he declined to name who he thought had used the district attorney, a fellow Republican. He also argued London had little choice but to accept the plea agreement, since taking the case to trial would have required spending even more to retain a defense attorney.
“It is disappointing and outrageous to have the District Attorney's Office motivated by politics force a young woman to choose between paying thousands of dollars to defend her innocence in a process that would likely take years versus paying a settlement of thousands of dollars now to make the charges go away,” Steinburg said in a followup email. “It is crystal clear we need serious judicial reform in this country and our state.”
A Dare County grand jury indicted London for embezzlement in May, claiming then that London had, while working for Pigman's, embezzled $2,511 over the course of 2017.
Womble said it was subsequently determined London had embezzled $25,000 from Pigman's, due in part to her access to credit cards.
London’s legal troubles did happen against the backdrop of Steinburg’s two successful campaigns for Senate this year, first in the Republican primary against Dare County businessman Clark Twiddy, and while he was running against Democrat Cole Phelps in the Nov. 6 general election. Notably, Pigman’s Bar-B-Que prominently supported Twiddy in the GOP primary. Also, Phelps criticized Steinburg’s judgment in employing someone under the cloud of criminal indictment.
An owner for Pigman's could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.
Womble said London’s restitution will be made to the restaurant itself, not a specific individual, and what happens with the money then is up to the owner or owners.