Local Politics

SBI investigating missing money in Wake Register of Deeds Office

Posted March 31, 2017 4:07 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

— Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Friday that she has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into "substantial sums of money" missing from the county Register of Deeds Office.

Meanwhile, longtime Register of Deeds Laura Riddick will step down from the elected position, effective Saturday.

County Manager Jim Hartmann said employees in the Register of Deeds Office found "irregularities" in January as they were trying to improve cash-handling systems, so he brought in county auditors to go over the books. The auditors' findings were turned over to Freeman, and she said she wanted the SBI's Financial Crimes Division to take an outside look.

"We're talking about public money, public funds," Freeman said, declining to say how much money is involved.

WRAL News has learned the missing money could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The investigation isn't targeting any member of the office's 40-person staff, she said, but no one is being precluded from the investigation either.

Yet, Freeman said she doesn't want people jumping to the conclusion that Riddick's departure is connected to the investigation. Hartmann said Riddick put in notice last week that she would retire because of health reasons.

Riddick said in a statement that she has undergone surgery for a recently diagnosed heart condition and likely faces more surgeries.

"I have been honored to serve the people of Wake County for the past two decades. I wish the best for my successor, the Registry staff and our customers," she said in the statement.

Freeman said Riddick has been "100 percent cooperative" with the investigation.

"Mrs. Riddick has been 100 percent cooperative and very welcoming to the internal audit team. She has turned over access to everything including her own personal computer and county phone," Freeman said.

Hartmann said auditors have implemented new procedures in the Register of Deeds Office to ensure more financial accountability. The office handles about $11 million in cash a year, he said.

Acting Register of Deeds Luther Snyder will manage the office until Wake County Republican Party officials name Riddick's successor. Under state law, they have 30 days to name a replacement.