By Greg Jordan
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A former state Department of Motor Vehicles manager who previously pleaded guilty to embezzlement was sentenced Wednesday to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution.
Rhonda Ann Thomas, 47, of Bluefield,Va., appeared before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope for sentencing. Thomas, who was once the manager of the regional DMV office in Princeton, pleaded guilty in early March to one charge of embezzlement. She was arrested in 2013 after the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment conducted an investigation.
Attorney Derick Lefler, who represented Thomas during the sentencing hearing, asked the court to accept probation. Except for the embezzlement, Thomas had otherwise led the life of a law-abiding citizen and was unlikely to re-offend. She has also taken steps to address a problem with gambling, he added.
Swope said that Thomas, who has forfeited her state pension, would have to start over again in the workforce, and that a felony conviction would make that even more difficult.
Thomas had asked the court for deferred adjudication, meaning the charge would be dismissed at a later date, but the court declined to do this, said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis. The DMV had opposed placing Thomas on probation.
Swope sentenced Thomas to a term of one to 10 years of imprisonment, then suspended that term and placed her on five years probation. If Thomas violates any terms of her probation, she could face the possibility to serving the one to 10 years in prison, McGinnis said. Thomas must pay $13,000 in restitution to the state.
Thomas does not have a previous criminal record, and placing her in prison would cost the state $25,000 a year, Swope said. She has already lost her state pension after working for the DMV for 17 years. One woman cried out “No!” when Swope spoke of the possible prison time, and he immediately ordered her from the courtroom.
“This isn’t the People’s Court,” he stated.
Thomas declined to address the court, and said everything she wanted to say was in a statement she had provided.
In one condition of probation, Thomas cannot go to any gambling parlors or casinos. She must also enroll in a program to address gambling addiction, Swope said.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com