Brad Heard Sr. and Brad Heard Jr. sentenced in federal court

Each received a sentence of at least 2 1/2 years in prison and was ordered to pay $5 million innrestitution

ALBANY — Southwest Georgia businessmen Brad Heard Sr. and son Brad Heard Jr. were sentenced Thursday afternoon at the C.B. King U.S. Courthouse Thursday on charges of bribing a bank official.

U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands handed down a sentence of 30 months in prison for Heard Sr., followed by five years of supervised probation.

Heard Jr. was given a 33-month prison term with five years supervised probation.

Each defendant was ordered to make “immediate” restitution of $5 million to Southwest Georgia Farm Credit in Bainbridge.

The Heards, along with Lawton C. Heard, brother of Brad Heard Sr. and Craig A. Howell, a Bainbridge minister, were indicted in November 2012 on charges of executing a scheme to defraud SWGFC through the use of bribes, kickbacks and rewards to Larry Malone, then the senior loan officer at SWGFC.

Heard Sr. and Heard Jr. later pleaded guilty to one charge each of bribery to Malone for the purpose of securing loans from SWGFC.

Richard Munson, CEO of SWGFC, directly supervised Malone until Malone’s termination in 2008 for failing to act in accordance with policy and procedure. In his testimony at the two days of hearing, Munson said that the underwriting had been manipulated by Malone by using intimidation tactics on young analysts, and that the verification processes for such loans were not followed.

The indictment stated that Heard Jr. borrowed roughly $5 million from SWGFC in Bainbridge to purchase real estate in Southwest Georgia and North Florida. The indictment charged also that Heard Sr. borrowed $5 million from SWGFC and, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, acted as a “straw borrower” — meaning he borrowed money from the SWGFC on behalf of his son, who had nearly reached the $6 million cap imposed on farm credit loans by the federal government.

Since that time, Munson said, the company has seen higher insurance rates as a result of the scheme — but that was not the only consequence. In addition to the loss of $10 million, he said, his organization suffered an injury to its reputation.