Woman accused in Wake bail bonds scheme pleads guilty
Posted May 9, 2014
Updated May 10, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A woman accused of cheating the Wake County Public School System out of unpaid bonds accepted a plea deal on Friday to avoid jail time.
Latoya Barnes, a former Wake County court clerk, apologized in court Friday morning for intentionally falsifying defendants' electronic court records in 12 cases to reflect that bail bondsmen had paid $27,400 in bonds when they had not.
A bail bondsman must pay the bond of a client who does not show up for court. The money is then used for public education, as required by the state constitution.
Barnes, who pleaded guilty to a felony count of altering court records, received two years of probation because she had no prior criminal record and because she alerted authorities to her actions.
Authorities said her actions came to light as the State Bureau of Investigation looked into an alleged scheme involving another court clerk and two bondsmen. They said she wasn't involved with the others and that she was the least culpable in the case.
Kelvin Ballentine, a 36-year-old former Wake County court clerk, and bondsmen James Perkins, 41, of 1035 Delta River Way in Knightdale, and Kenneth Golder II, 42, of 735 Obsidian Way in Durham, are charged with falsifying bond records in hundreds of cases from January 2008 to July 2013, totaling more than $1.5 million.
Defense attorney Jesse Scharff said Barnes made a deal to wipe away forfeited bonds from court records in exchange for help getting her son out of jail after he was arrested in Johnston County in 2011.
"I just want to thank the court and SBI agents for being as cooperative with me as well and just apologize to the whole court and everyone for all that they've had to go through because of my actions," Barnes said in court.
Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens credited Barnes for turning herself in and helping to open up the larger investigation.
"I know that you can work 20 or 30 years and be an outstanding public servant and make one bad judgment and ruin all that," he said.