An employee at the printing plant that makes more than half of America's paper currency stole up to $700,000 over seven years by stuffing his pockets with folded sheets of $20 and $50 bills, a Secret Service agent testified Thursday.

Donald Edward Stokes Jr., 39, was captured in Oklahoma City earlier this month. He fled after federal authorities found stolen money at his home, and was caught three weeks later.

The bills were flawed and had been marked for destruction at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (search) Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, but the money still was usable, agent Norm Layton testified during Stokes' preliminary hearing.

Defense attorney Randy S. Myers said his client "was ready to face the music" and hoped to reach a plea bargain. If convicted of theft of government property, Stokes could get up to 10 years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutor Bret Helmer said authorities are investigating whether anyone helped Stokes at the plant.

"This was a wake-up call," Helmer said. "As a matter of national security, we need to take every step possible to make sure this facility is secure."

The plant has about 700 employees and produces 18 million bills — worth about $169 million — daily.

In October, plant security officials called the Secret Service to report that a stack of $50 bills worth $5,000 was missing. Agents talked to Stokes, who worked in a section where notes are checked for accuracy and destroyed if there are flaws.

Stokes denied taking the money, and agents found nothing while searching his house, but he failed a lie-detector test, Layton testified. Stokes was not arrested but was placed on paid leave.

Then in March, his wife contacted authorities and said she found stacks of bills in Stokes' car trunk.