News

New charges filed against disgraced Oak Harbor attorney

Doug Saar - file photo
Doug Saar
— image credit: file photo

A formerly prominent Oak Harbor attorney could face many years behind bars if convicted on charges that include theft and money laundering.

Douglas Saar, 40, formerly of the Law Office of Skinner and Saar, is accused of stealing from estates he represented, shifting money around in accounts to hide the thefts and using stolen funds to pay for a limousine ride and a Hawaiian vacation, according to the police report.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks is handling the case against Saar.

Banks charged Saar in Superior Court Thursday with four counts of theft in the first degree, one count of theft in the second degree and nine counts of money laundering.

Money laundering simply means, Banks said, that stolen money was used for legitimate commerce.

Banks said he charged Saar with the money laundering counts, even though the felonies don’t add much to the potential sentence, in order to be able to show the “whole story” to the jury.

“The charges allow us to give the jury, as well as the public for that matter, the sense of how he used the money he stole,” Banks said.

The theft counts were charged with “special allegations,” which are that Saar committed an abuse of trust by using his “position of trust, confidence, or fiduciary responsibility to facilitate” the crimes.

If the special allegations are proven, Saar could be sentenced to up to 10 years for each first-degree theft charge and five years for the second-degree theft charge; the sentence could run consecutively, totaling a possible sentence of 45 years in prison.

Banks said, however, 45 years is a “theoretical maximum.”

Standard sentencing range for the charges is 43 to 57 months, he said.

Kevin Upton, one of the alleged victims, said Saar returned most of the money he stole from the trust set up by Upton’s parents, but that he spent about $100,000 in legal fees since 2012 to uncover the theft and recover the money.

“It’s about time,” Upton said of the charges. “It’s taken a long time.”

Last summer, Saar pleaded guilty in San Juan Superior Court to stealing nearly $100,000 from a different estate. He was sentenced to 30 days or electronic home detention and 240 hours of community restitution.

Saar was disbarred last September for misconduct, according to the Washington State Bar Association.

Chris Skinner, Saar’s former attorney, filed a lawsuit against Saar last year, claiming loss of reputation, loss of clients, loss of income and other allegations.

The lawsuits states that Saar made unauthorized credit charges on the corporate credit card and hasn’t paid back a loan from the firm.

Skinner said he uncovered signs that Saar had been co-mingling client funds with Saar’s personal funds, which led to Saar’s expulsion from the firm.

Skinner claimed he subsequently uncovered evidence that Saar stole money from an estate being handled by Saar in the firm’s Friday Harbor office.

Skinner provided the evidence to the San Juan County prosecuting attorney, which led to the theft charge against Saar.

Also, Skinner said that prior to his expulsion, Saar was providing fiduciary services for estates and trusts and charging fees for those services outside of the law firm, “an inappropriate breach of his duties as an officer and shareholder of the law firm.”

Skinner said the firm’s lawsuit against Saar for damages was on hold or “stayed” because Saar filed for protection in federal bankruptcy court.

Detective Carl Seim with the Oak Harbor Police Department wrote the report on the investigation.

The allegations against Saar first came to light after Kevin Upton filed a lawsuit against Saar in connection with his parents’ trust fund.

Saar allegedly wrote a $32,000 check to himself from the Upton Trust Fund in March 2012, just before his family took a Hawaiian vacation and spent in excess of $10,000; in May he wrote a $9,000 and a $1,000 check to himself from the trust fund, according to Seim’s report.

Seim wrote that Saar transferred $20,000 from the Froman Estate into his personal checking account in November 2012, but then transferred the money back into the account after his paralegal questioned him about the transaction.

In addition, Saar allegedly wrote a $23,500 check to himself from the Froman Estate in order to pay back the money he allegedly stole from the Upton Trust, Seim wrote.

Banks said Saar allegedly took money from the Wilson Trust, which was the San Juan County case, in order to pay back the Froman Estate.

In all, Saar wrote 11 checks to himself from the Upton trust totalling $109,000; he took a total of $96,960 from the Froman Estate, Seim wrote in his report.

Skinner said he heard that Saar is now employed by the Colville Indian Nation as an attorney, but the News-Times was unable to verify that information.

Saar could not be reached for comment.

 

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