London plea entered

Published 10:18 am Saturday, December 15, 2018

Dare County Clerk of Superior Court documents show that Diana Nicole London of Kitty Hawk has been sentenced on a charge of misdemeanor larceny for taking $2,511 from Pigman’s Bar-B-Que in Kill Devil Hills sometime in 2017 between February and December.

London, a 32-year-old former legislative aide to NC State Representative Bob Steinburg, was originally charged with felony embezzlement in a May 2018 indictment for her use of Pigman’s financial accounts to cover expenses for her own personal and business use.

When contacted by phone on Friday, Steinburg said London worked for him as a legislative aide from February 1, 2018 until about 5 p.m. this past Monday, December 10. As an aide, her duties included answering the phone, attending meetings and handling office correspondence. Steinburg added that later, outside her state duties, she was hired to work on his State Senate campaign and social media program.

Kill Devil Hills police records show the initial report that opened the case was filed on October 15, 2017.

According to Dare County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Karpowicz Bland, London used the same company, Chartreuse Moose in Raleigh, to design a website for her personal company as well as for Pigman’s and then charged Pigman’s for both her personal company and the Pigman’s web design work. There were also other charges to the Pigman’s account for her personal use. Bland explained that as a social media consultant, London had access to Pigman’s credit card accounts for social media and marketing work related to the restaurant’s business.

The judgment, entered December 3 as part of a plea agreement, calls for restitution of $25,000 with $10,000 to be paid on December 10, 2018, and the remaining $15,000 on or before May 10, 2019. Court costs of about $225 must also be paid. Other special conditions indicate that when all other conditions have been met and money has been paid, the defendant can be transferred to unsupervised probation.

The case became a popular Outer Banks and social media discussion topic when London became a legislative aide and active participant in Steinburg’s successful campaign for the Senate District 1 seat.

Steinburg defeated Clark Twiddy, a Dare County business owner, in the May 2018 Republican primary and went on to defeat  Democrat D. Cole Phelps in the November general election to become the next senator in Senate District 1.

Almost from the beginning, Steinburg claimed the prosecution against London was political and that the District Attorney for the First Judicial District, Bland’s boss Andrew Womble, was involved in what Steinburg considered a civil case.

However, according to Bland, who handled the case for the state, Steinburg was never part of the case.

“I had no clue she was Bob Steinburg’s legislative assistant,” explained Bland. “Nor do I care. I was not involved with anything on that political front and there was never any discussion about it.”

According to Bland, officers with the Kill Devil Hills Police Department began their investigation prior to London working for Steinburg.

“I don’t know when she started working for Bob Steinburg, but this investigation started prior to her employment with him,” she added.

Womble responded with a press release countering Steinburg’s accusations and a 27 minute audio clip in which London confessed to stealing from Richard Bruce and Thera Palmer, the co-owners of Pigman’s Bar-B-Que.

Bland went on to say her office was involved because a crime had been committed, but the plea agreement to a misdemeanor provides a benefit to all parties.

“It’s not necessarily a misdemeanor,” explained Bland. “It’s a felony amount, but we have reduced the plea offer down to a misdemeanor. We’ve given her an opportunity to plea to a misdemeanor in exchange for her making [Pigman’s] whole. So both parties get a little something.”

“The indictment originally only alleged $2,500,” Bland continued. “But she misappropriated funds, she saw that it was negligent, so it was just straight-up theft and stealing, but she’s going to make Pigman’s completely whole in exchange for a misdemeanor plea offer.”

Bland explained further that the restaurant owners would get the benefit of being made whole financially and getting the money sooner rather than waiting another couple of years to ultimately be paid.

“Obviously there is a backup in the system,” Bland added. “We can’t try everything, so there [are] a ton of benefits.”

Also, in spite of legal actions in New York and New Jersey, London did not have a criminal record.

“She’s never been convicted of a crime elsewhere,” continued Bland. “So we’re not going to treat her any different. Usually we do offer some sort of a plea offer; a lot of times it’s a conditional discharge for someone who this is the first time committing a crime. But we’re not going to treat her any different just because she’s Bob Steinburg’s assistant. We’re not going to treat her worse or treat her better than anybody else.”

Bland added that there is a Wake County civil judgment that involves Chartreuse Moose, who has been in contact and communicated with Pigman’s.

“If this case had gone to trial,” Bland added, “we would have tried to introduce the New York and New Jersey actions as evidence. But that’s also why we wanted to make sure she has something on her record. Had she not had that other stuff on her record from New Jersey and New York, we probably would have offered her a conditional discharge.”

During a call to the Dare County Clerk of Superior Court Office on Wednesday, an assistant clerk confirmed that the initial restitution payment had been paid on time. Unless London violates a condition of probation, the District Attorney’s office will have no further action in the case.

Calls to London’s attorney, Kris J. Felthousen, were not returned.

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