CHICAGO (STMW) — A longtime office manager at a downtown law firm was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday after she admitted she stole nearly $900,000 of the company’s money to pad her personal bank account and treat herself and her mother to lavish meals.

Joan M. Sanchez worked at Kelly, Olson, Michod, DeHaan & Richter for more than 20 years. Between 2002 and 2009, she wrote 234 checks to herself totaling $884,299, Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Trutenko said at the time of her arrest.

Of those checks, 176 totaling $836,500 were deposited into the Oak Lawn woman’s personal bank account at Chase, with the remaining $47,799 in checks made payable to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange lunch club, Trutenko said.

The law firm discovered the scheme while Sanchez was on a Hawaiian vacation and a $40 reimbursement check from the firm’s bank account bounced, even though the firm’s ledger, which had been doctored, showed the account had a significant amount of money, a Cook County State’s Attorney’s office release said.

The firm then called police and an investigation was launched.

Cook County Judge Diane Cannon sentenced Sanchez on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty during a court hearing. She was immediately taken into custody.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)