GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Two former Hancock Bank employees will spend the next eight and a half years in federal prison.
Margaret Migues and Doris Burney received those sentences Tuesday in Gulfport after pleading guilty earlier to embezzlement charges.
The two women preyed upon elderly customers and tarnished the reputation of a well known bank. Migues and Burney were accused of bilking customers out of more than $2 million during an embezzlement that lasted nearly 20 years.
Before sentencing each woman, Judge Louis Guirola Jr. said their crime "affected this community deeply."
Margaret Migues arrived at federal court with her attorney and a large group of family and friends. She worked in banking for 32 years and was a longtime employee of Hancock Bank in Ocean Springs.
A former co-worker was a character witness, telling the court, "That's not a heinous criminal sitting before you, rather a good person who made mistakes."
Defendant Doris Burney also came to court with family and friends. Her son testified his mother was like "gravity in the neighborhood." He said she held things down and often cared for at risk children in the community.
A brother testified the 62-year-old breast cancer survivor was a good family person.
The bank customers targeted in this embezzlement ranged in age from 71 to 102-years-old. During the sentencing hearing, Judge Guirola said the defendants admitted to choosing those customers based upon their age and the fact they did not thoroughly keep up with their accounts.
Said the judge: "In essence, they chose as their prey, the weakest of the herd."
Shane Loper spoke for Hancock Bank, telling the court while the monetary loss is large, the reputation damage caused by the crimes is more egregious.
"The bank is founded on strength and stability, honor and integrity and personal responsibility. And when you tarnish an image like that in the community, it's a big deal," said Loper, "I feel like this sends a strong message to folks who will commit these types of crimes, that there is some penalty at the end of the crimes they've committed."
Doris Burney and her family declined any comment as they left the courthouse.
Margaret Migues let her attorney speak on her behalf.
"We're trying to put this behind us," said defense attorney Tim Holleman. "I think my client did the right thing. She's always tried to make amends ever since this occurred. And it was a difficult thing for her and her family. But I think she's not on the road to putting things behind her and correcting what was done."
As for the bank customers who were embezzled, they all got their money back from Hancock Bank.
In addition to the prison time, the judge ordered the two defendants to pay $3.4 million in restitution to Hancock Bank. They must pay at least $300 a month following three years of "supervised release" which begins after the prison time.