Local Politics

Wake tells insurer $2.3M stolen from deeds office

Posted August 29
Updated September 1

— More than $2.3 million was stolen from the Wake County Register of Deeds Office over the past nine years, county officials reported in an insurance claim.

The county filed a proof of loss claim with Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America on Monday, stating a loss of $2,333,591.30 from "employee dishonesty or employee theft."

County officials declined to comment Tuesday.

The deeds office handles millions of dollars in cash a year for everything from recording real estate transactions to issuing marriage licenses, birth and death certificates and new business filings.

Employees found irregularities in January as they were trying to automate cash-handling systems, according to a summary in the insurance claim, so County Manager Jim Hartmann brought in county auditors to go over the books. District Attorney Lorrin Freeman called in the State Bureau of Investigation in late March to assist in the probe.

The summary notes that employees tracked cash and check receipts and daily deposits for nine days in January to see how they matched up. They found deposits were short a total of $2,583 on the five days then-Register of Deeds Laura Riddick was in the office, and there was an overage of $37.15 total on the four days she wasn't there.

Riddick served as registrar for 20 years before retiring in March for health reasons.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but Troy Ellis, a technician at the office, was fired April 5 after he confessed to taking $50,000 within the last year. Ellis is now cooperating with investigators.

Data analysis performed by county auditors found deposits by the deeds office were short $200,864 to $326,743 every year from 2009 through 2016. External auditors were also brought in to review the situation, and they issued a two-page letter Friday confirming the county's findings.

The deeds office has since adopted stricter cash handling procedures and policies requiring daily reconciliation of receipts and deposits to improve accountability.

6 Comments

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  • Maureen Mercer Aug 29, 8:18 p.m.
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    Hope all embezzlers are made to pay restitution.

  • Tim Blanchard Aug 29, 5:04 p.m.
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    Wake County has so much corruption. If you rob a bank, you get a felony. If you are govt and steal millions and buddies with the sheriff, you are good to go

  • Betsey Duggins Aug 29, 12:56 p.m.
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    Just burns my biscuits! I do not live in Wake County, but whom do you think pays for the theft policy? Thats right folks, your county tax dollars! Expect your taxes to go up due to having to pay for a higher insurance premium. A thief needs to be pay for their crime!

  • Henry Cooper Aug 29, 12:49 p.m.
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    I would have to see those numbers to believe them. I have a very small sample (a family member is a county employee) and just the value of their retirement plan so far out paces 80% of what now exists in the private sector I bet. Look at the Health Ins. deductibles most are dealing with then look at the options offered in the county employee health plan. That in itself is worth thousands of dollar's every year. They have dental insurance that is still paid for by the county @ a 65% rate. Dental Insurance on a company's dime in the private sector is nearly non existent.

    Another issue with the comparison is the county employees have FAR MORE job security during economic contraction than those in the private sector. You have to factor all of this to really understand the value of long term government jobs.

  • Teddy Fowler Aug 29, 12:30 p.m.
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    True county benefits do tend to be better.... but the wages and pay raises are not up to par with the private sector.... so I would say that it is a wash.... and I hope that they do arrest Laura Riddick who is an elected official not an employee of Wake County.

  • Henry Cooper Aug 29, 12:09 p.m.
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    WOW initial estimates were not even 1/2 that amount.

    Just using us for their lifestyle obsessions while we work to earn it for them.

    Isn't it enough govt employee benefits are far superior to the avg benefits most get in the private sector. Go take a look at the county employees full compensation package (Medical Benefits, paid time off, retirement plan) and then go price that in the market.

    The frustrating thing is that it just keeps happening, Stories lately of unjustified OT in a sheriff's office. DA's hire each others wives... and the list goes on.

    Now lets see what kind of punishment is handed out. If a group of people embezzled 2+ million dollars from a business they would go to jail for a long time. Of course a business would not miss it for 5+ years.

    And the machine rolls on.