Indictments in Wake Register of Deeds Scandal Charge Laura Riddick with Embezzling $926,615 | News
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Indictments in Wake Register of Deeds Scandal Charge Laura Riddick with Embezzling $926,615

Posted by on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 4:51 PM

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Former Wake County Register of Deeds Laura Riddick faces charges of embezzling nearly a million dollars in six indictments returned by a county grand jury Tuesday.

Riddick and three other Register of Deeds employees are charged in sixteen indictments related to money under their control.

Riddick faces charges including embezzlement of more than $100,000 by a public official, a class C felony under state law. The indictments state that she converted to her own use money that belonged to the office she formerly headed. A series of six indictments charge Riddick with taking $926,615 from the office.

"Clearly these indictments today come at the end of a lengthy, detailed investigation, but it's just the beginning of a long court process," Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday evening. "We are intent on seeing it through so that justice can be served."

With no prior record, Riddick likely faces a sentence of between five and seven years per count, officials said.

A judge has set conditions of release for Riddick in the form of a $700,000 secured bond. Riddick has executed a deed of trust for her home in that amount to secure her release, court officials said.

Additional indictments charge employee Troy Ellis with one count of taking $50,000, Murray Parker with three counts of taking funds totaling $47,660, and Veronica Gearon with six counts of embezzling $80,900. Taken together, the alleged missing cash totals more than $1.1 million.

The charges against individuals were divided into separate indictments representing time periods. The earliest period in which Riddick is charged is from August 4, 2010, until December 30, 2011. The most recent is from January 6, 2016, until January 31, 2017, not long before Wake County officials announced an investigation of the office.

"At the time the defendant … was holding public office as the duly elected Wake County Register of Deeds and in that capacity had been entrusted to receive and care for the money described above," the indictment signed by Freeman reads.

The charges follow by more than nine months the announcement in March that money was missing from the office and that Riddick had stepped down from her elected post. Eventually, a claim to the county insurance company showed that $2,333,591.30 in cash had disappeared, in almost daily amounts, for nearly ten years, between 2008 and 2017. During 2012, the largest annual amount disappeared—$326,743.31.

An investigation by Freeman, county officials, and the State Bureau of Investigation found that the office did not keep accurate records and handled cash loosely.

Riddick, initially elected in 1996, retired in March, at the same time Freeman and then-county manager Jim Hartmann announced that the SBI would investigate the missing funds. The officials attributed Riddick's departure to poor health, not the missing funds.

Riddick has not been available for comment since her retirement. (Hartmann has since also retired, to move to Florida and be closer to his family.)

The county had not performed a detailed audit of the Register of Deeds office in recent years. According to longstanding practice, elected officials such as the county sheriff and register of deeds had not been subject to the same scrutiny as other departments. 

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