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Register of Deeds arrested on embezzlement charges

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Catawba County Register of Deeds Donna Hicks Spencer has been charged with embezzlement and failing to uphold her obligations as a public official.

The grand jury indictment lists four charges against Spencer: embezzlement by a local or charitable officer, two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses and one count of register of deeds failing to discharge duty.

Spencer, 55, is accused of falsely claiming overtime or other compensated hours that she did not actually work, as well as diverting funds for personal use under the pretext of buying office supplies, according to the indictment. These activities are alleged to have occurred between early 2017 and late 2019.

The State Bureau of Investigation's involvement in the case dates back to April 2020, Angie Grube, public information director for the agency, said. That is when the SBI was asked by the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys to look into possible criminal conduct in the office, Grube said.

The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys is a state agency that provides support and assistance to the individual DA's offices across NC.

Spencer faced the charges Tuesday morning at the Catawba County Detention Center. After going before a magistrate, she was issued a $9,900 secured bond, according to Grube.

Spencer said nothing as she left the jail with her attorney Blair Cody on Tuesday morning, but Cody provided a few comments.

“We don’t know enough to say anything right now other than we’re going to defend these charges vigorously, and we don’t have any further comment at this time,” Cody said. “We found out about this this morning.”

Cody added that Spencer intends to keep serving as the register of deeds. Spencer took office in 2004, according to the Catawba County government website. She was reelected last year.

District Attorney Scott Reilly said his office will not prosecute the case and that the conference of district attorneys would handle it.

"They have a number of prosecutors that work for the conference of DAs that are assigned to different areas of the state," Reilly said. "They're also assigned to different types of crimes."


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