NORWAY – A town employee with an outstanding arrest warrant could be hard to find because she’s likely on a ship at sea, police Chief Rob Federico said Sunday.

A state official said Debbie Wyman is out of the country, but she will be arrested when she returns to the United States.

The warrant was issued Friday for Wyman in connection with the discovery of embezzled grant funds.

Officials believe more than $10,000 has been taken from the town.

The Harrison resident has been away since the beginning of the year on a leave of absence, which is not unusual for her, Federico said.

Because her primary responsibility has been administering and overseeing grants for the town, which are not steady, her schedule was flexible, he said.

“We know what she’s told people her plans were, that she would be spending the time in Florida and surrounding areas,” the chief said. She had plans to return to her job as community development director and receptionist in early April. Wyman, in her early 50s and unmarried, has worked for the town for 20 years.

At some point during her time off, Wyman indicated she would be taking a sailing trip, Federico said. She has a passport.

Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said Sunday that Wyman’s whereabouts are unknown, but that she is not in the country. Her name has been entered into the National Crime Information computer system, which will alert any law officers that she’s wanted in Maine.

“She’s not in this country, that’s all I can say for sure,” McCausland said. “When she returns, she’ll be arrested.”

He said he had no information about whether her assets had been frozen, or who she might be with.

The investigation into missing funds began when a local businessman approached the town about a month ago with a new tax record indicating he had received more money to renovate his store faade than he had actually gotten.

Town Manager David Holt turned the matter over to police when he suspected a crime.

Federico said subpoenas of bank records dating back three years resulted in enough evidence to issue a warrant for Wyman on a charge of Class B felony theft.

Investigators will examine records older than three years as well.

“We’re comparing the town’s bank records and (Wyman’s) bank records,” Federico said.

Police obtained more financial statements during a search of Wyman’s apartment at The Anchorage on Route 117 in Harrison Friday, Federico said.

Audits of the town records failed to pick up the discrepancies, even though Federico said one auditor commented that Norway had more safety nets for the detection of embezzlement than many other towns.

Since the discovery of mismatched numbers, the town has hired auditors, including a forensic auditing team from Portland, to examine the town books.

“There’s always somebody who can circumvent these precautions,” Federico said

The town was given a state Community Development Block Grant last spring to help business owners redo store fronts as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the downtown. Wyman said in a past interview that 10 businesses received individual grants for up to $15,000 to renovate their storefronts.

Also, last fall Norway received $500,000 from another CDBG grant to pay for a number of projects aimed at improving Main Street and the area around what was once the C.B. Cummings Mill. Of that money, $100,000 was going to be issued to more local businesses for facade renovations.

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