RALEIGH – Register of Deeds offices take payment for all sorts of things, but mostly for filing official or legal paper work. Much of the time those fees are paid in cash.
In a county like Wake County – that contains the state capital, around a million people, and lots of business activity – that means a lot of cash is changing hands at the Register of Deeds office. So much so that millions of dollars can ‘slip through the cracks’ for the better part of a decade before someone notices.
Well someone noticed, and apparently a good bit of that cash was making its way into the pockets of thieving county employees and an elected official, the Register of Deeds herself. Like….A LOT.
“All four people, including ex-Wake County Register of Deeds Laura Riddick, who are charged with embezzlement after $2.3 million went missing from the Wake County Register of Deeds over the course of nearly nine years, have turned themselves in at the Wake County Detention Center.
Riddick was indicted Tuesday on six counts of embezzlement by public officer, with officials alleging she took more than $925,000.
Three others from the Register of Deeds office were also indicted. Troy Ellis, Murray M. Parker, and Veronica Gearon were also indicted on charges of embezzlement by public officer.”
Riddick retired in the spring citing health issues. She announced her retirement the same day the district attorney held a news conference to announce that an investigation was underway.
In a request for a search of Riddick’s bank records, an investigator wrote, “The review showed cash deposits totaling $875,365 were made from August 4, 2010 to January 31, 2017 into those bank accounts.”
The investigator wrote, “… Riddick, during some of the years she served as Register of Deeds, was provided an envelope containing cash collected from the Register of Deeds’ Recording and Marriage section, at the end of the business day. Riddick counted the cash while alone in her office. Riddick was the first person to count the cash collected from that section.””
Folks, this was money paid in good faith by the residents of Wake County expecting it to be used to support government services. Riddick was reelected time and again in Wake County, all while she was stealing nearly a million dollars.
I bet they have more than one person (and a video camera) counting the day’s collections at the Register of Deeds office now. Why that wasn’t the case in the first place, when literal cash flows are so high, is ridiculous.
We’re all used to lacking faith in the D.C. Swamp, and the cabal on Jones Street, but bad people are everywhere, even the county Main Street.
Further, when unscrupulous individuals can skim more than $2 million from a Register of Deeds office, maybe it’s time to consider limiting the size of government fees and bureaucracies. Wake County residents and businesses would be better off with more of their money remaining in their pocket, instead of Big Government creating conditions in which ‘public servants’ like Riddick and company can put it in their own pockets.
Read more details here.