A 68-year-old bookkeeper from Merrick pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzling more than $456,000 from her employer by forging the owner's signature on checks and setting up automatic payments for her personal bills, Nassau County prosecutors said.

Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of a 11/3 to 4 years for Joanne Rocca, who pleaded guilty to second- degree grand larceny in Nassau County Court, the Nassau County district attorney's office said in a news release. Prosecutors are also seeking restitution of $164,432.88, with Rocca already having paid back $292,000.

Employees who "steal this much money damage the trust placed by employers in their employees and put the fiscal health of companies and the jobs of fellow employees at risk," Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.

"Mrs. Rocca has taken full responsibility for her crime, has paid restitution to the best of her ability and is hopeful for a probationary sentence," said her attorney, Anthony M. La Pinta of Hauppauge.

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The theft was discovered in May 2011 when Rocca's former employer found a company check made out to Rocca's American Express account on her desk while she was at lunch, prosecutors said. She was fired at that time, La Pinta said.

From July 2004 to April 2011, Rocca used her bookkeeper position for a Plainview-based building maintenance and real estate firm to embezzle the money, using it to pay her cable, gas, grocery and utility bills, as well as to buy home furnishings, prosecutors said.

She originally denied the accusation, prosecutors said, but an internal review of the company's checkbook, bank statements and accounts revealed the theft.

Rocca was arrested May 8, 2013, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment and was conditionally released to probation.

She is now due back in court for sentencing on June 6.