AUBURN – Jan Mulherin was a longtime employee at a private company who exploited her job as bookkeeper by secretly cutting checks to herself and her kids’ sports teams without her boss’ permission, a state prosecutor said Tuesday.

That’s the case Maine Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin outlined for jurors on the first day of Mulherin’s trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court on two counts of felony theft. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison.

Then there’s “the rest of the story,” Mulherin’s attorney, Walter McKee, told the jury in his opening statement.

Mulherin believed she had the consent of her boss, Roger Dargie of Poland, when she donated company money to hockey, soccer and cheerleading teams in the Turner area, where her kids went to school, McKee said.

Dargie also allowed her to be paid commissions in addition to her regular salary after she and a company salesman at Safe Approach Inc., which designs and builds safety equipment, squabbled over which of them should be credited for a sale to a particular client, McKee said.

The state began presenting its case against Mulherin on Tuesday. Dargie testified that he discovered Mulherin’s alleged unauthorized donations when he searched her desk for some trace of a donation he wanted her to make to Edward Little High School in Auburn that never materialized. What he found instead, he said, was evidence of Mulherin’s donation to her kids’ sports teams. That evidence, a check stub, was ripped into pieces and discarded in her wastebasket, he said. She’s charged with embezzling more than $10,000 and writing unauthorized checks to nonprofits totaling more than $1,000.

Dargie later asked her to explain her actions, but she couldn’t, he said.

That discovery sparked an internal investigation of her check-writing history and other charges to company funds, he said. He also flagged what appeared to be unauthorized credit card charges, petty cash reimbursements and cell phones. He fired Mulherin and notified the Maine Attorney General’s Office of his findings.

Holding up a green and white sports jersey with the name: “River Valley Hornets” printed on it, Robbin asked Dargie whether he ever authorized Mulherin to buy the shirts.

“No,” he said.

Did he ever authorize spending money on green and white cushions with the name of the team?

“No,” he said.

McKee, on cross-examination, pointed out that the jerseys and cushions bore Dargie’s company name and information.

Dargie told investigators he never authorized any donations between 2001 and 2006, but testified Tuesday that he misspoke when he was reminded of authorized donations to several nonprofit groups.

The trial is expected to end Thursday.

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