Local News

Former Wake County Register of Deeds indicted in connection with missing money

Posted December 12, 2017 4:29 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2017 5:29 a.m. EST

— Former Register of Deeds Laura Riddick was indicted Tuesday, along with three other employees, in connection with the theft of more than $1 million from the Wake County Register of Deeds Office.

Employees in the deeds office found “irregularities” in January as they were trying to improve cash-handling systems, so Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann brought in county auditors to go over the books and called the State Bureau of Investigation in late March.

"People in the Register of Deeds Office began to recognize there was a disparity or discrepancy between computer systems and deposits," Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said.

John Stephenson, the county's internal auditor, 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.

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 Tuesday that number included mistakes made and waived fees as well as possible criminal cases they don't have evidence for.

On April 5, Troy Ellis, a technician at the Register of Deeds Office, was fired after he confessed to taking $50,000 within the past year.

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

Freeman on Tuesday explained how authorities were able to trace the money's trail to Riddick and the other employees.

"As part of any embezzlement investigation, you also typically are looking at bank records and other information that would allow you to trace funds that would have been taken," she said.

Riddick on Tuesday was indicted on six counts of embezzlement by a public officer. According to court papers, Riddick embezzled more than $900,000 between Aug. 4, 2010 and Feb. 20, 2017.

Employee Veronica Gearon was indicted on six counts of embezzlement by a public officer. She took nearly $81,000 between Jan. 26, 2011 and Oct. 21, 2016.

Employee Murray Parker was indicted on three counts of embezzlement by a public officer and court papers show he stole about $74,000 between Jan. 11 2010 and March 31, 2013.

Ellis was also indicted Tuesday on a charge of embezzlement by a public officer in connection with the missing $50,000, which was stolen between Dec. 5, 2015 and Feb. 20, 2017, according to court documents.

County officials said the missing money was hard to spot because reports were doctored to match deposits. Since the issue was revealed, Freeman said there have been changes made to the way the county handles cash payments.

"The county really has tried to take this and the allegations very seriously," she said.

Freeman said no further charges are anticipated.