RENO — A former Washoe County water engineer accused of embezzling $2.2 million to support a gambling habit pleaded guilty Friday to five counts of grand theft.
Paul Orphan, 54, looked down and spoke softly as he entered the pleas under a plea bargain in Washoe County District Court that also calls for him to pay $2.2 million in restitution.
On Oct. 14, he faces a sentence ranging from probation to 50 years in prison.
Prosecutors said they would seek the full 50 years for Orphan, who was on the run for about three weeks before he was arrested on June 19.
The money taken from 2006 to February 2008 went to fund a gambling habit, authorities said, and Orphan lost more than $1 million while gambling at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks over a year’s period.
“This is a good resolution to the case,” District Attorney Dick Gammick said. “We need to send a message to other people that this won’t be tolerated.”
Orphan said he was entering the pleas voluntarily and understood that he was waiving his right to an appeal.
His lawyer, David Spitzer, praised Orphan for accepting responsibility and offering to pay restitution. Spitzer said Orphan’s defense team was undecided what sentence it would recommend.