Steinburg aide to pay back $25,000 to KDH restaurant

Diana London, legislative aide to N.C. State Rep. and State Senator-elect Bob Steinburg, accepted a plea agreement in Dare County Superior Court on Dec. 5 by pleading guilty to misdemeanor larceny and agreeing to pay $25,000 in restitution to her former employer, Pigman’s Bar-B-Que in Kill Devil Hills.  

      London, a 32-year-old Kitty Hawk resident, was charged with felony embezzlement last spring after using the restaurant owners’ various financial accounts to charge nearly $30,000 to benefit her own business ventures and to cover other personal charges, Dare County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bland told the Sentinel.

      Under the plea arrangement, London has agreed to pay $10,000 to Pigman’s owners by Dec. 10, with the remaining $15,000 due by May 10, 2019. She will remain on supervised probation until the balance is paid off. Once full restitution is made, London will be transferred to unsupervised probation for an unspecified period of time.  

      According to an October 2017 Kill Devil Hills police report, the fraud began in January of 2017, shortly after London was hired as a social media consultant with the restaurant and before she began her work in Steinburg’s office.

      Bland said Pigman’s owners, Richard Bruce and Thera Palmer, noticed the problem after being notified of suspicious charges made under their name to an Uber account in Europe at the same time London was there.

      Among other unauthorized financial card charges, one to website design company Cartereuse Moose included payments charged to Pigman’s account for London’s own company, called The London Company. Other unauthorized charges included GoDaddy, LinkedIn, iTunes and the Idea Center.

      London was charged with the felony shortly after Steinburg defeated Republican Clark Twiddy in the 2018 GOP primary for the District 1 State Senate seat, which represents Dare County. On Nov. 6, Steinburg defeated Democrat Cole Phelps of Washington County to win the seat.

      Steinburg did not respond to Sentinel messages seeking comment. But in a Dec. 6 story in the Daily Advance, Steinburg was quoted as saying that it was "very disappointing" for the District Attorney for the First Judicial District, Andrew Womble, to get involved in what Steinburg saw as a  civil case.

      The story also noted that “Steinburg claimed the allegations and prosecution against London were purely ‘political’ and he said opponents of his had ‘weaponized’ the judicial system against London.”

      In a press release countering those accusations, Womble asserted that, “Suggesting a nefarious motivation on behalf of the District Attorney’s office or that the system is broken after not attending one court hearing or listening to one recitation of facts in open court is intellectually dishonest and serves to undermine the public’s confidence in their representatives and their judicial system.”

      Womble also noted in the press release that he hadn’t spoken with Steinburg or any of his representatives regarding the case. Bland told the Sentinel that the only person present with London during the Dec. 5 plea agreement hearing in Dare County was her mother.

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Reporter, Outer Banks Sentinel

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