Wake tells insurer $2.3M stolen from deeds office
Posted August 29
Updated September 1
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.