Mary Marra had been convicted of theft-related offenses seven times, but she said she didn't think of the consequences when she stole more than half a million dollars from her boss.
"It doesn't make sense but it's the truth," she told a DuPage County judge Friday. "I wasn't thinking."
The former receptionist faces up to 15 years in prison but also could get probation Monday when Judge Daniel Guerin sentences her for stealing from the law office of Downers Grove attorney Justin Tedrowe.
On Friday, the 44-year-old Woodridge woman took the witness stand and apologized to Tedrowe for violating his trust. She said she suffered from a shopping compulsion and had been in counseling for a year trying to come to terms with "the horrible things I've done."
"Saying sorry is inadequate," she said.
Prosecutor Diane Michalak asked Guerin put Marra behind bars for a near-maximum term of 14 years, citing her extensive history of theft.
Among other cases, Marra was previously convicted of stealing from a bank her first week working there as a teller. She also was convicted of fishing cash from a safe at a gas station where she was employed -- a feat that required the use of a weighted string affixed with double-sided tape.
"The defendant is a thief -- and this time she stole half a million dollars," Michalak said. "She steals when she needs to. She steals when she can. It's what she does."
Marra was Tedrowe's receptionist and office manager for roughly a decade. She wrote more than $500,000 in unauthorized checks to herself during the last six years of her employment, authorities said.
Marra said she spent most of the money on clothing -- "lots of clothing" -- but also sent her children to a private school, took vacations and remodeled her home. She said she gave some of the money to charity.
After the thefts were uncovered, Marra said, she maxed out her credit cards and let her family's home fall into foreclosure by not paying the mortgage. She has since been trying to rebuild their life.
"I've caused my family to lose everything," she said. "We literally have nothing."
Defense attorney Ann Marie Lampariello-Perez sought probation for Marra, taking into account her mental health and the impact a lengthy incarceration would have on her family.
Marra, who has already repaid $157,000, said she yet to tell her children she might not come home from court.
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to, but I will," she said. "My biggest fear is the damage it will cause to them."