Former DMV worker pleads to embezzling

A former worker has pleaded guilty to embezzling $100,000 from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles over a five-year period.

Annie Daphine Ross Prince, 61, entered the plea Monday in Brunswick County Superior Court and was sentenced to at least five years in prison, the Wilmington Star-News reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said Prince has admitted taking $388,795 from the Oak Island license plate agency where she worked from January 2001 to February 2006.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has filed a civil lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court seeking the $388,795 from Prince and Oak Island Mayor Johnie Vereen, who held the DMV office license. Vereen isn't charged criminally and his lawyer, R.C. Soles, said the lawsuit was on hold because Prince filed for bankruptcy protection.

Witnesses for Prince said the crime didn't fit with her outward character.

During the hearing, Superior Court Judge Gary Locklear said he almost got emotional as he listened to testimony about Prince's roots in the community. Friends and family filled nearly two rows in the courtroom.

Her son was late Boiling Spring Lakes police Officer Mitchell Prince, who was shot to death in 2005 after he stopped a car.

“This lady has gone through a lot in her life,” said defense lawyer Roy Trest, adding that her sister died from cancer.

Trest said Prince took small amounts of money at first to help other people and that the embezzlement got bigger over time.

Assistant District Attorney Brooke Smith agreed the case was sad, but said embezzlement was a serious crime that had to be punished.

The judge agreed and said if Prince had been able to return some of the money her sentence might have been shorter.

“The amount, the volume, is what makes this so serious,” Locklear said.

The DMV suspended operations at the license plate office on Feb. 9, 2006, after auditors founds that bills of sale for vehicles were changed showing less money was reported to the state than was received for vehicle licenses. Fees were based on the vehicle value.