Total missing from Wake Register of Deeds office continues to swell

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The amount of money missing from the Wake County Register of Deeds office keeps adding up – now close to $900,000.

An audit of 2014 transactions released Friday show $289,175 unaccounted in that year. That’s on top of the roughly $600,000 missing in 2015 and 2016.

The audit continues and is digging back to 2008.

EARLIER: $600k+ missing from Wake County government office; probe widens

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said it will likely be several more weeks before her office would be to the point of discussing charges. Possible charges in a case like this could include embezzlement and felony larceny by an employee, Freeman said.

In an email to other county leaders earlier in July, Wake County Commissioner Irv Portman questioned why the investigation did not start sooner.

He told CBS North Carolina Friday night, “I don’t want to be a Monday morning quarterback. I wasn’t involved in the conversation as it occurred, but I was concerned that law enforcement was not called in and given the opportunity to investigate prior to the notification being given to the department that was being investigated.”

Freeman told CBS North Carolina on Friday night that the very day she received word from Register of Deeds employees that money was missing, she began an audit and initiated changes to prevent any further money from disappearing. She also said she notified the State Bureau of Investigation’s financial crimes division, but decided to hold off on opening a criminal investigation until she determined money was in fact missing.

Here’s a portion of that conversation:

CBS North Carolina: “Do you have any regrets about delaying starting that criminal investigation?”

Freeman: “I do not at this time. Again, I feel comfortable with the manner in which this investigation is proceeding.”

Portman said, “She’s the one who has the responsibility of prosecuting the case and if she feels good about it, that makes me feel good.”

In his email, Portman also questions whether former Register of Deeds Laura Riddick received special treatment.

“I asked the question and I asked the question simply because it doesn’t seem logical to me that the people being investigated would necessarily or should necessarily be notified that they’re going to be investigated before the investigation begins,” he said.

We asked about that, too:

CBS North Carolina: “Was Laura Riddick treated like anyone else?”
Freeman: “Absolutely.”

Riddick retired, citing health reasons, around the time the district attorney and county manager announced the investigation in late March.

The investigation looks at anyone who had access to money, which includes Riddick.

CBS North Carolina knocked on the door of her Raleigh home Friday night, but no one answered.

The new register of deeds, Charles Gilliam, told CBS North Carolina Friday night that “strong controls” are now in place and the books continue to balance.


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