The Wake County Register of Deeds Office fired one of its employees less than a week after the State Bureau of Investigation began a probe into a “substantial amount” of money missing from an office that handles $14 million a year – much of it in cash.
Troy Ellis III, a technician at the office who was hired in 2010, was fired April 5 after he confessed to taking $50,000 within the past year, according to a dismissal letter by then-acting Register of Deeds Luther Snyder.
According to the letter, Ellis called his supervisor to talk about the missing money on April 1, a day after county leaders announced they had asked the SBI to open a probe of the office after noticing funds were missing.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Monday that Ellis has not been charged with a crime yet and he is working with investigators. Freeman said investigators believe the amount of money missing from the county office is far greater than what Ellis has acknowledged taking.
The probe is looking back at a decade’s worth of records and into the possibility that others were involved.
The letter from Snyder recounts Ellis’ April 1 phone call.
“During that call, you confessed that you were involved. Specifically, you stated that you had taken County money over the last year in the amount of approximately $50,000,” Snyder wrote.
At a pre-dismissal conference with superiors on April 4, “you apologized for taking the money and stated that you wanted to cooperate fully with the investigation and repay all of the money taken,” Snyder wrote.
“However, you did not offer any additional information that would change my recommendation that you be dismissed. Therefore, effective immediately, I am dismissing you from your position ... for unacceptable personal conduct and grossly inefficient job performance.”
Ellis isn’t seeking the $4,303 he’s owed in leave payout balance, the letter states. It reveals little else about the missing funds.
The Register of Deeds Office employs about 40 people. The office records legal documents and maps, issues marriage licenses and vital records certificates, certifies documents and administers notary public oaths.
The office until this year had been under consistent leadership for nearly 20 years. Laura Riddick, who won her first of six terms as Wake’s register of deeds in 1996, announced her retirement the same day Freeman and Jim Hartmann, Wake’s county manager, announced the SBI probe.
Hartmann said that Riddick let him know she would be leaving for health reasons weeks prior to the probe announcement and that the move is not related to the SBI investigation. On April 17, the Wake Board of Commissioners appointed Charles Gilliam, a former district judge, to replace her.