Whidbey attorney may have stolen millions from former clients
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
January 12, 2011 · Updated 11:32 AM
Investigators have discovered that Peter Moote, a longtime South Whidbey attorney, may have stolen millions of dollars from about 30 former clients, according to Detective Sgt. Mike Beech with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.
Beech has been investigating Moote for alleged theft and fraud since before the well-known attorney resigned from the Washington State Bar Association in lieu of disbarment last November.
Because of the magnitude of the case, Beech said he’s working jointly with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle. He indicated that the case may be handled in federal court.
“It’s a bit much for a three-detective department,” he said.
Beech indicated that the evidence in the case is strong, especially since Moote has sent out letters to the victims, allegedly apologizing for taking their money and promising to do what he can to pay them back.
Beech said he doesn’t know where all the money went. Moote’s attorney has said that his client was going through bankruptcy in order to “marshal assets” to pay people back. The state filed a tax warrant against Moote on Dec. 21 for $2,534 in unpaid taxes.
In the two cases Moote was disbarred over, he was accused of settling civil cases without telling his clients and taking the settlement money, all the while promising the clients that their cases were ongoing, according to the statement of alleged misconduct from the disciplinary board of the state bar association.
Beech said Moote’s modus operandi appeared to be similar in the other cases.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.