Former Wake Register of Deeds, three others indicted over missing money
A total of $2.3 million in cash went missing from the Wake County Register of Deeds office over a nine-year period, records show.
Wake County reported that total in a claim filed with its insurance company Monday.
The claim shows that large sums of cash went missing from 2008 onward. The yearly totals ranged from $200,000 in 2009 to $326,000 in 2012.
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the missing cash.
The person at the heart of the mystery is former Register of Deeds Laura Riddick, who was first elected to the office in 1996 and resigned in April, citing health problems.
In June, The News & Observer reported that Riddick's office violated the most basic rules for handling cash. Records showed that an employee collected cash from tellers, most of it uncounted, and delivered it to Riddick.
She routinely was the first person to make a daily count and written record of currency received by her office.
Earlier this year, top-level employees concerned about cash deposits being lower than expected changed the process without telling Riddick.
During an eight-day period, they counted the currency before delivering it to her, with surprising results: Each day, after the money left Riddick's office, cash was missing, mostly $20 and $100 bills, a total of $200 to $800 a day. The records show one exception: No cash was missing the one day Riddick did not go to work.
On that last day, Feb. 1, County Manager Jim Hartmann and County Attorney Scott Warren met with Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who asked them to perform an internal audit of the Register of Deeds Office. Hartmann and Warren met with Riddick on Feb. 2, and she agreed to the audit.
Riddick, who was paid $143,000 a year, resigned April 1, citing a serious heart condition. The 51-year-old Republican was elected to office six times and served 20 years. She is married to Matthew Eisley, a former News & Observer reporter and editor who left The N&O in 2010.
The Register of Deeds Office records real-estate transactions, birth and death certificates and marriage licenses. Those licenses, which cost $60, were required to be paid for in cash and accounted for much of the currency that passed through the office.
Troy Ellis III, the employee who delivered the cash to Riddick for years, has admitted taking $50,000 in 2016 and is cooperating with investigators, according to his letter of dismissal. His admission does not account for the large amount of money missing.