A gay former Democratic leader who admitted bilking an accounting client of $3.6 million before disappearing for more than a year was sentenced Monday to nearly five years in federal prison. Andrew Reyes, former chairman of Mecklenburg County's Democratic Party in North Carolina, had been missing 18 months before his arrest last October in California. He pleaded guilty early this year to bank fraud, income tax evasion, and conspiracy to commit income tax evasion. Reyes's lawyer, James Wyatt, has said his client was going through a personal crisis when he disappeared from Charlotte, N.C., in May 2001 and did not know he was under investigation.
On Monday, U.S. district court judge Lacy Thornburg granted a defense motion to seal records related to Reyes's medical and mental health. He also recommended that Reyes receive substance abuse treatment in prison. Federal prosecutors agreed to the four-year, nine-month sentence, saying
Reyes had provided help that could lead to more criminal prosecutions. They did not elaborate.
Reyes rose rapidly in Charlotte politics in the late 1990s, progressing from gay activist to major party donor to the city's first openly gay political figure. He mingled with Hollywood celebrities and met President Clinton.
The charges stemmed from his handling of the financial affairs of Douglas King, owner of Aslan Construction. Questions were raised after King died in a motorcycle accident near his New Hampshire home in September 2000. The following May, Reyes told friends he was leaving Charlotte on business. He drove away in his BMW, and his whereabouts were unknown until October 2002, when he was arrested in California as he crossed the border from Mexico. In his guilty plea, Reyes admitted diverting $3.6 million to himself from Aslan accounts between 1998 and 2000.