A view of downtown Danforth during the the town's Summerfest parade on August 7. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

A former employee for the town of Danforth has pleaded not guilty to a felony theft charge that she stole $111,000 from the town over a two-year period.

Leta F. Lee, 61, of Reed Plantation, was indicted last month by a Washington County grand jury on a Class B charge of theft for allegedly embezzling the funds between July 2014 and August 2016, when she was employed as Danforth’s town clerk.

She was arraigned Tuesday in Calais and pleaded not guilty to the charge, according to Assistant Attorney General Charles Boyle.

Boyle declined to comment further on the case.

James Driscoll, Lee’s defense attorney, and Jonathan Pottle, an attorney for the town, did not reply to separate messages seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Ardis Brown, Danforth’s town manager, also did not return a message Thursday.

The disappearance of the funds was first discovered by town officials in 2017, but local residents did not find out about it until October of 2020, the Houlton Pioneer Times reported last year. The town was able to recover about $40,000 through insurance policies.

“This has been a very challenging issue for the town,” Brown told the Houlton newspaper in February 2021. “We have been doing everything we can with available resources to address the matter and recoup funds for the town as much as possible. We take this issue very seriously, and we will continue to do so.”

Lee has no prior criminal history, according to state records.

The charge was filed by the attorney general’s office more than two years after Washington County District Attorney Matthew Foster decided not to pursue a criminal case against Lee.

In a letter Foster sent to Danforth officials in December 2019, Foster said there was a shortage of available officers with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the allegations, which is something his office is not equipped to do. Plus, it was unlikely that, even with a conviction, Lee would be able to reimburse the town for the funds not covered by its insurance policies.

He suggested that the town contact the state attorney general’s office for help.

“I am sorry that we cannot be of assistance, since I know that the loss of revenue to the town has a long lasting effect on your ability to provide services to Danforth’s citizens,” Foster wrote. 

If convicted of the Class B theft charge, Lee faces punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....