The Wake County Register of Deeds Office Is Now Missing $900K | Triangulator | Indy Week
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The Wake County Register of Deeds Office Is Now Missing $900K 

click to enlarge Lorrin Freeman and Jim Hartmann

Photo by Thomas Goldsmith

Lorrin Freeman and Jim Hartmann

A new internal audit of the Wake County Register of Deeds office shows that more than $289,000 went missing there in 2014, bringing the total of money unaccounted for in the office to more than $900,000 during a three-year period.

The latest chapter in the story of the troubled office, from which erstwhile Register of Deeds Laura Riddick retired in March, shows that more than $1,000 a day went missing on more than two hundred days in 2014, with the largest single daily amount of $5,384.45 disappearing on May 9.

County manager Jim Hartmann's office made the audit available Friday following a records request by The News & Observer.

Previous accountings, which showed more than $600,000 missing in 2015 and 2016, only began after Hartmann and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced in March that the State Bureau of Investigation would investigate the office. Freeman and Hartmann said at the time that Riddick, who has not been available for comment, resigned because of an illness.

Last month, the INDY reported that several North Carolina county governments have internal audit departments that perform annually the sort of hands-on investigation that the Wake County Register of Deeds office has been undergoing since March.

The county's internal audit director will continue examining records from as far back as 2008, the most recent year for which tallies are available, Hartmann said. Riddick was first elected in 1996.

All North Carolina counties prepare records of their financial affairs and other relevant statistics for a comprehensive annual financial report, or CAFR. These documents may uncover fraud, but they are not carried out with a principal goal of detecting malfeasance. 

Wake investigative documents show that Riddick often accepted a day's take of uncounted cash, added it up by herself, then transferred it to other Register of Deeds staff members for official recording. Freeman says Riddick remains under investigation along with other employees of the office, and Riddick has cooperated with the probe.

Freeman says the results of the SBI investigation could be announced in September, and a grand jury could be impaneled at that time.

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