Wake County Court system scheme shorts schools $1 million

Officials say nearly $1 million destined for Wake County Schools never got there due to an elaborate scheme.
February 18, 2014 8:23:11 PM PST
Officials say nearly $1 million destined for Wake County Schools never got there due to an elaborate scheme.

Sources tell ABC11 that it's because a Wake County Court clerk helped bondsmen avoid paying the forfeited bond for people who didn't show up for court.

To get out of jail, suspects either have to come up with their own bond or pay a bondsman a non-refundable fee to put up the bond for them. If the suspect doesn't show up for court, then the bondsman must pay the full amount of the bond. That is unless the bondsman has inside help.

"Someone fraudulently has relieved people of their responsibility," said Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby.

Willoughby says that's the tip that came in from the clerk of court last year. In August, he wrote a letter to the SBI. He says the long investigation is now wrapping up.

Sources say they expect at least three people to be indicted by a grand jury -- that would include two bail bondsmen and a former clerk.

The allegations are that the bondsmen bribed at least one clerk to make a few keystrokes and make it so they wouldn't have to pay the forfeited bonds. In this case, it comes to the tune of almost $1 million. It's all money that by law would go to Wake County Public Schools.

The dollar amount is high because the scheme had apparently been going on for years.

"It started before I became clerk and ended this summer when it came to light," said Wake Clerk of Court Lorrin Freeman.

That's when Freeman fired the employee involved. Now she's running for district attorney, but doesn't think the scandal will hurt her chances.

"That's the kind of district attorney I think people want is somebody who's going to do the right thing, call in the SBI to do the investigation, even when it might not be in their best interest," said Freeman.

Freeman says she agrees, however, with the current D.A. that the scheme has harmed the public not just because of the loss of money for schools, but also because criminals have been left on the streets.

"No one goes out and arrests them and brings them back in to face whatever criminal charges of robbery or drug trafficking or drunk driving or whatever crime they were charged with," said Willoughby.

The task for court officials now is trying to figure how to keep this from ever happening again.

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