TAMPA — Two former bank workers learned the cost of theft Tuesday in federal court.
Michelle Guy, 40, will serve four years in prison for using her job at HSBC Mortgage Services to steal $2.2 million from an employee rewards program. "I knew I needed to stop," Guy told a judge. "I don't know why I could not."
Susan Emily Jones, 50, will serve two years for misappropriating $824,301 from Citicorp Financial Services. She gave more than a tenth of it to her church and spent $353,000 on football tickets, records show.
Guy, who has two young daughters, asked to do her time at Coleman, the federal prison closest to Tampa. Jones asked for a facility in West Virginia. Her parents, in their mid 80s, live in nearby Pennsylvania.
With prior clean records, neither woman qualified for a maximum penalty of 20 to 30 years.
But in Guy's case, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich imposed a longer sentence than the government sought, adding seven months to the recommendation of 41 months.
Guy's husband, Kevin, sat in the courtroom. A co-conspirator, he is about to begin his own 37-month sentence, putting their children in the care of a grandmother.
"This would not have happened without the defendant, the wife's willingness to make a fool out of her employer," the judge said.
In Jones' case, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday imposed a sentence more lenient than what the government proposed.
Jones' Pittsburgh father attended her hearing. So did supporters from Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, beneficiary of an estimated $95,795.
Jones' attorney told Merryday about years of largesse. He said he wasn't suggesting a "Robin Hood defense," though he also mentioned Robin Hood in a written motion and attached a list of gifts.
The attorneys for both women portrayed their clients as good people, corrupted in part by lax policies at financial institutions.
While Jones' attorney talked about charity, Guy's attorney talked about mental illness. A psychiatrist, testifying for the defense, attributed the hoarding of designer merchandise to an obsessive compulsive disorder.
Prosecutor Simon Gaugush called the purchases "plain and simple American materialism."
"Good people don't steal $2.2 million," he said. "Only in an altered universe turned upside down can you characterize people who steal $2.2 million as good."
Both women were ordered to pay back what they took, though not with any particular haste. Jones was told to pay $250 a month after she leaves prison.
Neither was taken into custody. They'll be allowed to surrender in the coming weeks.
Judge Kovachevich granted Guy permission to go to one last out-of-state soccer tournament with her daughter.
But the judge budged on little else. Being away from family is "part of the penalty," she said at one point, refusing a defense proposal to let the Guys stagger their prison sentences.
Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.