Grand jury indicts four in alleged Wake bail bond scheme
Posted February 25, 2014
Updated February 26, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A grand jury on Tuesday indicted four people, including two former Wake County court clerks, on charges stemming from an investigation into bail bondsmen not paying the court hundreds of thousands of dollars when criminal defendants skipped bail.
A bail bondsman's job is to guarantee to pay the court system if their clients don't show up for court. That money, under North Carolina's constitution, is used to fund public schools.
In this case, authorities say the former clerks, Kelvin Lawrence Ballentine, 36, and Latoya Tanisha Barnes, 41, intentionally falsified defendants' electronic court records in 307 cases to reflect that the bondsmen had paid when they had not.
Each faces charges of obtaining property by false pretenses, accessing a government computer and altering court records. James L. Perkins, 41, of 1035 Delta River Way, Knightdale, and Kenneth Vernon Golder II, 42, of 735 Obsidian Way, Durham, the bail bondsmen, each were indicted on the same charges as well as a misdemeanor bail bond violation.
Indictments allege that the four – between January 2008 and July 2013 – cheated the Wake County Public School System out of more than $1.5 million.
"Anytime we find corruption in government, it's disheartening, it's disillusioning, and we feel like we have to take strong measures to detect it and prosecute it," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Tuesday, adding that he believes the clerks acted separately from one another.
The investigation continues, he said, and more indictments are possible.
Of the 307 cases in question, 148have been resolved, Wake County Clerk of Court Lorrin Freeman said. Of the remaining cases, orders of arrest have been issued for anyone who still has not appeared in court.
Willoughby said last week that the State Bureau of Investigation started investigating in August after Freeman received an anonymous tip about bond irregularities.
She said she was able to substantiate the claim through computer log-in information and fired one employee, although she would not say whom. The other resigned.
Ballentine, of 216 New River Parkway, Knightdale, had been with the clerk's office for more than 15 years; Barnes, of 208 Wexford Drive, Clayton, less than five. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
"Whenever someone in the court system violates trust, it's a serious betrayal. It's disturbing," said Freeman, who has 160 employees. "I expect my employees to do the right thing."
Perkins, who owns A Plus Perkins Bail Bonding in Knightdale, also couldn't be reached.
Golder runs Golder Bail Bonds in Raleigh. His mother, who is also the company's president, said her son knew he might be implicated.
"I am terribly surprised," Geneva Golder said. "I know – I can almost assure – my son is not guilty of anything."
According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, which regulates bail bondsman companies, there are 1,640 licensed bail bondsmen and bail bond runners in North Carolina – approximately 200 of those have Wake County addresses.
Rod Malone, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System, said Tuesday afternoon that he will be filing motions against the insurance companies that underwrite bail bonds to recover the money it is owed, along with fines.
Freeman said that the school system, during the fiscal year ending in June, received a little more than $500,000 from bond forfeitures.