A Searsport woman pleaded guilty to an embezzlement charge at U.S. District Court, admitting to stealing more than $26,000 from various bank customers over the course of about two years because she was supporting a drug habit.

According to court records, 23-year-old Brittany Mace of Searsport waived indictment and formally admitted to the charge Thursday, Nov. 14.

Court documents state Mace, who was formerly employed at Bangor Savings Bank in Searsport, stole money from 48 bank customers between Aug. 23, 2010 and Nov. 3, 2011.

"The amounts were as low as $20 and several were over $1,000," states the initial complaint against Mace. "The total amount was approximately $26,038.06."

Court records state bank officials were alerted to the problem when a bank customer questioned a discrepancy in their own account and reported it to management at the Searsport branch. After conducting an audit, the bank determined all transactions that showed discrepancies were conducted by Mace.

The government alleges Mace used several techniques to obtain the funds from the accounts that included deleting completed customer transactions and reprocessing them with a cash-back option, using duplicate withdrawal tickets, altering amounts on tickets, forging customer signatures and altering dates on tickets.

The complaint further states Bangor Savings Bank has reimbursed all identified bank customers who were impacted.

According to the court records, Mace admitted to a Bangor Savings Bank human resources director and another bank employee that she made unauthorized withdrawals on some customer accounts and named one customer in particular as the one from which she took most of the money. That account alone showed a missing total amount of $10,378.69, an amount that the investigation revealed Mace obtained through 39 transactions over the two-year span in question.

Over the course of the investigation, court records show Mace said the thefts began in December 2010 when her drawer was over one day and she took the money to make her drawer balance, and that from there the situation escalated.

"When asked whether she had ever taken or changed other tickets, or done other things with items such as treasurer's checks, money orders, traveler's checks or general ledger accounts she responded that she had not because those things were all tracked and she wouldn't be able to do anything with them," stated the complaint.

Court documents state Mace admitted she developed a drug habit and was taking prescription drugs as well as Oxycontin "several times a week."

"Mace said she used the money to purchase the pills which cost about $200 for five pills which would last two to three days and to pay bills including electricity and insurance," stated the complaint. "Mace disclosed that she often forged the customer's signature with a sharpie-style marker to make it harder to read. Mace said she did not know how much money she had taken and was surprised to hear that it was well over $10,000."

Court records do not indicate when Mace will be sentenced on the charge, but state she remains free on $5,000 unsecured bail until her sentencing date.

Mace could face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million, five years of supervised release as well as a restitution order, according to court documents.