PROVIDENCE R.I. (WLNE) - The former Bristol democrat who hastily stepped down before taking office is now facing an embezzlement charge.

Laufton Ascencao, 26, was arraigned in 6th District Court Thursday on the felony charge. He was released on personal recogizance.

A Rhode Island State Police investigation uncovered Ascencao had taken thousands of dollars from an organization he volunteered for and used the money for his own campaign.

Investigators say Ascencao wrote 15 checks totaling $16,379.70 from the checking account of the Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental group where Ascencao was treasurer.

Ascencao was elected to the General Assembly in 2018, representing District 68. He resigned a month later amid controversy over mailers for Warren Town Council democrats that he failed to send.

The court affidavit shows the 26-year-old, who now lives in Maine, wrote six checks to himself, three to pay the rent for his office space, two checks went to his campaign manager, and three went to other campaign expenses. One check paid for a postcard that endorsed democrats running for Warren Town Council. That move sparked the investigation.

The Board of Elections and the Warren Democratic Town Committee filed a complaint questioning how Ascencao was paying for that election mailer that he allegedly sent out.

Following the arraignment, the Sierra Club sent us this statement:

“Last November, the Sierra Club began an internal investigation into the apparent misappropriation of funds by volunteer official Laufton Ascencao in Rhode Island. He was promptly removed from any role with the organization and we reported the situation to state authorities. This misappropriation interrupted the critically important work of Sierra Club members and volunteers across the state, wasted vital resources, and hindered our ability to fight to protect Rhode Island communities and our environment. We continue to coordinate with our attorneys and Rhode Island state authorities about this matter and look forward to its resolution," said Aaron Jaehnig, Chair of the Rhode Island Sierra Club.

Ascencao will be back in court in December. His attorney had no comment on the charge.

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