Broward County

She lost $1.4 million on slot machines. What she’s about to lose is even more valuable

Former Wake official turns herself in on embezzlement charges

Former Wake County register of deeds Laura Riddick turned herself in to law enforcement officers on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, the day after she was accused of embezzling more than $900,000 from the office she presided over for two decades. Riddick
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Former Wake County register of deeds Laura Riddick turned herself in to law enforcement officers on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, the day after she was accused of embezzling more than $900,000 from the office she presided over for two decades. Riddick

Lauren Ransom lost $1.4 million on the Seminole Casino at Coconut Creek slot machines, which isn’t illegal. That’s why the bookkeeper embezzled millions from one of the Margate-based companies for which she worked. That is illegal.

Neither is the reason Ransom’s about to lose an irreplaceable commodity, time outside prison, after pleading guilty in federal court Thursday to three counts of tax fraud.

She’s not being prosecuted in any court for what she stole from the owners of Rhino Inc., who also owned the other company for which Ransom was bookkeeper for 33 years. But, taking a tack taken recently with Pompano Beach embezzler Timothy Beverley, federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service reasoned income is income. They went after Ransom, a 58-year-old Deerfield Beach resident, for not reporting the embezzled millions on her taxes for 2011, 2012 or 2013.

Ransom’s reported income over those three years was $48,354, according to court documents. But her actual income, she admits, was $1,563,865.58. The $1,515,501.58 difference translates to $679,884 of income tax.

Court records say that gap “consisted of money she embezzled from Rhino's business accounts at (Bank of America), where she used her signatory authority on the accounts and wrote unauthorized company checks payable to “cash'' and “Lauren Ransom,'' and then cashed these checks at BOA or deposited them into a personal checking account she solely controlled at Wachovia Bank.”

When the canceled checks came back, she would white out the section with her name and write in a company that looked like a legitimate business expense. Ransom also falsified entries on cash disbursement lists.

Ransom used that money to pay basic bills — mortgage, car, credit cards — but also to finance an excessive affinity for the slots. Court documents say she lost $1,410,276.95 between Dec. 1, 2008, and Jan. 31, 2014, at the Seminole Casino. According to the activity on her casino player’s card, Ransom hit the slot machines on 77 percent of the days during that period.

In June 2013, the married couple who owned Rhino and employed Ransom as a bookkeeper since 1980 figured out Ransom’s simple scheme and fired her. Over numerous text messages sent from August 2013 through January 2014, Ransom pleaded with the couple to not send her to jail for her embezzlement. They didn’t press charges, but with her illegal revenue stream dried up, Ransom couldn’t stay ahead of her creditors. She went through a bankruptcy in 2017.

One week before her bankruptcy case closed, the IRS came knocking for its money. Ransom knows how much she’ll pay in restitution: the $679,884.

She’ll find out at her May 22 sentencing how much she’ll pay in time.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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