Former Wake County clerk apologizes for altering bond records

ablythe@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2014 

Latoya Tanisha Barnes: 2/25/2014, at 3301 HAMMOND RD RALEIGH, NC. 5'06", 218. Charged with: GJI-OBT PROPERTY FALSE PRET. GJI-ACCESSING COMPUTERS (F). GJI-ALTER COURT DOCUMENTS.

— A former Wake County clerk accused of altering court records for a bondsman pleaded guilty Friday and explained why she broke the law.

Latoya Barnes, the clerk who quit abruptly last summer, apologized in court for intentionally falsifying electronic court records in 12 cases.

In exchange for help getting her son out of the Johnston County jail three years ago, Barnes changed records to show that $27,400 in bonds had been paid when that was not the case.

Bondsmen must forfeit money when their clients fail to show up for court hearings. In North Carolina, that money eventually goes to the local public school system.

Last year, the Wake County clerk’s office was tipped off about problems with the bond records, and Lorrin Freeman, the county’s clerk of court, immediately alerted law enforcement officers.

The State Bureau of Investigation began looking into the matter, and Barnes left her job around that time. Investigators interviewed her because of the abrupt departure, and she immediately told them what she had done, according to court officials.

That cooperation led to a sentence Friday in which she received two years of probation but no jail time for the felony.

The SBI investigation led to the arrest this year of another Wake County clerk and two bond agents, but officials said Barnes’ case is not connected to the larger scheme.

Former Wake County clerk Kelvin Ballentine, 36, of 216 New River Parkway in Knightdale; bondsman James Perkins, 41, of 1035 Delta River Way in Knightdale, and bondsman Kenneth Golder II, 42, of 735 Obsidian Way in Durham, are accused of falsifying bond records in hundreds of cases from January 2008 to July 2013. Their actions, according to investigators, resulted in the loss of more than $1.5 million for Wake County schools.

The schools hope to recoup that money.

Several weeks ago, the district filed 316 motions, one for each case in which it says bail money was not turned over. Rod Malone, an attorney for the school system, said last month that the civil complaints seek more than $1 million.

The motions were filed in Wake County Superior Court and District Court against 13 insurance companies and four professional bondsmen. In addition to recovering the $1 million, school officials are seeking 8 percent interest and monetary sanctions against the bail agents and the insurance companies.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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