BANGOR, Maine — Brittany Mace’s infant daughter cooed and burbled Thursday morning in U.S. District Court, oblivious to the fact that her mother was there to be sentenced for a crime committed long before she was born.
Mace, 24, of Searsport admitted last fall that she embezzled nearly $26,000 while working as a teller at Bangor Savings Bank in Searsport. She used the money — stolen between August 2010 and October 2011 — to illegally buy oxycodone, to which she became addicted after being injured in a car accident. She took money from the accounts of 48 people, some of whom are elderly and suffering from dementia, which makes them particularly vulnerable in the court’s eyes.
“It was the biggest mistake of my life,” Mace, who wept throughout her sentencing hearing, told the court. “I can’t even begin to find the words to describe how sorry I am, or how to apologize to all the people that I’ve harmed.”
U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby sentenced her to one month in jail and seven months home confinement after she is released, as well as five years of supervised release and the repayment of the money she embezzled from the bank, which has compensated its customers for their financial losses.
Mace had faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
“Miss Mace, you’re going to serve time. That’s going to be hard for you,” Hornby told the defendant. “Now, the important question is the future. You now have responsibility for not just your own life, which you have always had, but also that of your baby. It’s a huge responsibility.”
Todd Lowell, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, told the court that Mace has done a lot of right things in the last year, including receiving treatment for substance abuse, taking responsibility for the embezzlement and being a good mother, according to reports.
“We hope we’ll never see her in this courtroom again — but the crime she committed is a serious one,” he said. “People came into the bank, did business with Miss Mace and left the bank as victims.”
He said that people have the expectation that they can trust their bank tellers.
“When people like Miss Mace commit crimes, that trust is eroded in a real and substantial way,” Lowell said. “This crime has had real effects on people.”
One person who was affected by Mace’s thefts in a very significant way is Lillie Maddocks, who now lives in Winterport. She stood up to tell the court that when Mace stole $50 from her account, it caused her to miss a car payment and ultimately to lose her car. It also ended her marriage, she said, when her husband of 12 years thought she was taking money from their joint account and then lying about it.
“A lot of people may not think the amount of money that Ms. Mace took from customers is a lot,” she said. “But I live on disability. It cost me my marriage … it really hurts. Her actions hurt a lot of us.”
Mace’s attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Virginia Villa, said that she’s represented a lot of addicts over the years.
“They are ultimately selfish,” she said. “They cannot think beyond the next time, the next dose, the next hit … Brittany didn’t think about the harm she was doing to the people she worked with, to the bank or to the community. Since then, she’s been able to address those problems to ensure she will not go back to that behavior.”
Villa asked the judge to disregard the growing national sentiment to increase punishment for crimes driven by addiction, saying that additional punishment doesn’t address the underlying reason for those crimes.
According to the defendant’s sentencing memorandum, Mace tried to kick her prescription opiate addiction while she was embezzling the money, but couldn’t. She tried again to kick the habit when bank employees confronted her about the disappearing money, but was unsuccessful.
Only after Mace enrolled in a substance abuse counseling program in 2012 was she able to become sober. She told the judge Thursday that she currently is taking Suboxone, an opiate replacement therapy.
“She wants to be the best person she can be to give her daughter a stable environment,” Villa said. “Being a mother is unselfish. You can’t be a good mother and an addict at the same time.”