A former receptionist convicted of stealing more than half a million dollars from a Downers Grove law firm had been accused of theft on at least four prior occasions, including one in which she fished bills from a drop box safe using a weighted string and tape, authorities said.
The earlier allegations were presented in DuPage County court Thursday as a sentencing hearing got under way for Mary Marra, 44, of Woodridge.
Marra faces up to 15 years in prison but also could receive probation after pleading guilty in June to stealing about $550,000 from the law practice of Justin Tedrowe.
In court Thursday, Tedrowe testified that Marra had been his receptionist and office manager for a decade or more when he made the startling discovery that she'd stolen from him for years.
"I was devastated ... shocked," he said.
Authorities say Marra took the money by writing unauthorized checks to herself over a six-year period. But it was far from her first brush with crime.
In the late 1980s, she was arrested in connection with at least four cases involving theft, forged checks and stolen credit cards, according to testimony.
In one case, she was accused of using a weighted string and double-sided tape to fish about $2,300 out of a drop box safe at a Downers Grove gas station where she worked. In another, she was accused of pocketing $3,000 from a Downers Grove bank during her first week on the job as a drive-up teller.
"She said she was pressured (to take the money) by a boyfriend who threatened to harm her," testified state's attorney Investigator Robert Guerrieri.
Tedrowe said he did not check Marra's criminal background before he hired her, but he contacted several of her former employers for references. He said she initially appeared to be an "excellent employee," and he eventually gave her the added responsibility of balancing the office accounts.
Marra was fired in March 2008 for "incompetence and total abandonment of her work," Tedrowe said, adding he learned of the thefts about a month later when a client trust was overdrawn.
The ordeal led to two lawsuits against his firm and cost him more than $100,000, Tedrowe testified.
"I've never had an apology or any sign of regret," he said.
Tedrowe was on the witness stand for several hours Thursday as the prosecution began building its case.
A therapist called on Marra's behalf also testified that mental illness may have factored into her behavior. But the defense is expected to present the bulk of its evidence when the hearing resumes Friday before Judge Daniel Guerin.