Sheriff's deputies issued an arrest warrant Friday for a former Washoe County water resource engineer accused of bilking the county out of more than $2 million and gambling away half of it at a local casino.
Paul Constantine Orphan, a 20-year employee of the Washoe County Department of Water Resources, is accused of stealing the money by setting up phony businesses that he claimed were selling well capacity rights to the county, Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick said.
Assistant County Sheriff Marshall Emerson said it is possible as much as $6 million overall was stolen.
Orphan was placed on administrative leave from his position as the engineering manager of the department's utility division on May 27 after a supervisor raised concerns about improper use of funds, Water Resources Director Rosemary Menard said in a statement Friday. She said the immediately contacted the sheriff's office and district attorney's office.
Orphan since has disappeared and local authorities are contacting the FBI to help obtain an unlawful flight warrant, Assistant County Sheriff Marshall Emerson said.
Gammick said an investigation showed that Orphan cashed 41 checks related to purchases he made on behalf of the county from his two bogus businesses. He gambled more than $1 million at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, authorities said.
County spokeswoman Kathy Carter said the stolen funds were from a water users' fund at the Department of Water Resources and were not from the taxpayer-funded general budget.
"We are saddened by the actions that we've had to take in the past week," Menard said.
"We have an obligation to our customers to investigate any possible improprieties once they are brought to our attention, which we did. We will continue to work with the authorities to ensure a thorough and fair investigation."
Menard said the county carries insurance that allows for the recovery of up to $2 million and has begun the process of filing a claim.