Ex-activist pleads guilty to fraud charges

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 29 2003 1:00 AM ET

Andrew Reyes, a former gay rights activist and accountant who once was head of the Democratic Party in Mecklenburg County, N.C., pleaded guilty Tuesday to bank fraud and tax evasion.

Reyes was accused of diverting $3.6 million from an accounting client to himself between 1998 and 2000. He initially faced 15 counts of bank fraud. In a brief hearing before U.S. magistrate judge Carl Horn, Reyes pleaded guilty to those charges, three charges of income tax evasion, and one charge of conspiracy to commit income tax evasion.

Reyes, who progressed from gay activist to major party donor to local Democratic Party leader, declined to make a statement after his plea, limiting his remarks to brief answers to Horn's questions.

"Andrew has confronted this case, and he is dealing with it. He is looking forward to the next chapter in his life," defense lawyer James Wyatt said after the plea.

Reyes first became known in Charlotte as a gay activist during a 1997 controversy over public funding for the gay-themed play Angels in America. Later he became a major donor to Democratic candidates and head of the local Democratic Party, the city's first openly gay political figure. He mingled with Hollywood celebrities and met President Clinton.

Questions began to be raised about Reyes's accounting work for Doug King, owner of Aslan Construction, after King died in a September 2000 motorcycle accident near his home in Hillsborough, N.H. According to the indictment, Reyes had signature authority over a First Union bank account of Aslan Construction.

On May 4, 2001, Reyes told friends he was leaving Charlotte on business. He drove away in his BMW, and his whereabouts were unknown until October 3, when he was arrested in California as he crossed the border from Mexico.

Wyatt said this fall that Reyes had left Charlotte during a period of "very severe, catastrophic personal problems" and was living with his mother, then a friend, as he recuperated. He said Reyes didn't know he was being investigated and made no attempt to hide his identity.

No sentencing date was immediately set. Prosecutors said each bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine and that each of the tax charges could bring up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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