Local News

Authorities looking into former Wake official's resort trips

Posted May 21, 2018 2:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2018 5:58 p.m. EDT

— Investigators reviewing former Wake County Register of Deeds Laura Riddick's financial history are looking into her stays at resorts on the Outer Banks and in Florida, according to search warrants released Monday.

Riddick faces six counts of embezzlement by a public officer. Authorities allege that she skimmed more than $900,000 from the deeds office's cash receipts between 2010 and last year.

According to applications for search warrants to obtain records from Sanderling Resort in Duck and South Seas Island Resort in Captiva, Fla., Riddick stayed at the two resorts six times each between 2010 and 2016 and paid cash for expenses during her stays.

The applications also note that Riddick made cash deposits totaling $872,555 into two bank accounts between August 2010 and January 2017.

Some employees found irregularities last year while trying to implement a new cash-handling system, so then-Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann brought in county auditors to go over the books. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman later called the State Bureau of Investigation to assist with the probe.

Riddick resigned her position around the same time, but Hartmann and Freeman said at the time that her departure was unrelated to the investigation and was the result of a heart condition that necessitated surgery.

John Stephenson, the county's internal auditor, has said an average of $1,100 to $1,900 a day was taken from the office's cash receipts for vital records since at least 2008.

County officials said the missing money was hard to spot because reports were doctored to match deposits. Internal financial controls have since been beefed up in the deeds office to prevent further theft.

The county filed an insurance claim in August, stating a loss of $2,333,591.30 from the Register of Deeds Office over nine years because of "employee dishonesty or employee theft." Freeman said that number included mistakes made and waived fees as well as possible criminal cases they don't have evidence for.

Three other former deeds office employees – Veronica Gearon, Murray Parker and Troy Ellis – also have been charged in the case.