A bookkeeper who embezzled more than $1.5 million in a crime spree that put a century-old printing company out of business and nearly killed another Eugene firm has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

EUGENE — A bookkeeper who embezzled more than $1.5 million in a crime spree that put a century-old printing company out of business and nearly killed another Eugene firm has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Victoria Monfore, 48, of Springfield pleaded guilty Thursday to theft and identity theft crimes that stretched back to 2003. She blamed her actions on a gambling addiction.

"I had some weird sickness that I couldn't control," Monfore said.

She nodded as victims described the close-knit relationship enjoyed by those who worked for the IP Koke and My Little Salesman companies. Several victims said they were appalled that a bookkeeper they loved and trusted continued to drain money even as she watched colleagues losing their jobs to layoffs.

"It's hard to put into words what Vickie did to the people who worked for our companies," Jason Pierce, president of My Little Salesman and former president of IP Koke, said in the courtroom. "She destroyed their lives. She took away the money they used to put food on the table and clothes on their backs."

When IP Koke closed in December 2008, Pierce and his father, Richard, blamed financial problems and changes in the printing industry.

But in a letter to the court, Richard Pierce said Monfore stole more than $701,000 between 2007 and 2008, almost the same amount of money the company borrowed in an unsuccessful bid to stay open.

The sentencing was a nearly daylong affair and was attended by everyone from a former mailroom worker to the grandson of Joseph Koke, who founded the printing company in 1907.

Prosecutor Bob Lane said Monfore secretly wrote herself a total of 234 company checks totaling $1.56 million. He urged a sentence of 23 years and nine months because of the number of victims she amassed and the damage she knew she was causing.

Defense attorney Brian Barnes called a witness who specializes in treating compulsive gamblers. Therapist Oblio Stroyman testified that, for some people, gambling becomes an "addiction or mental health disorder" rather than a choice, dramatically impairing their impulse control.

Lane noted that Monfore spent much of the money on more than 30 plane trips to resorts in Las Vegas with family and friends. "That doesn't sound impulsive to me," he said.