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No jail time for Oak Harbor attorney who stole from estate
A well-known Oak Harbor attorney won’t be able to practice law much longer after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $100,000 from an estate he represented.
Douglas Saar, 39, of Oak Harbor, pleaded guilty in San Juan Superior Court last Friday to one count of first-degree theft.
The judge agreed with the sentence recommended by both the defense and prosecution as part of a plea bargain.
Saar won’t spend any time in jail. A 60-day sentence was converted to 30 days of electronic home detention and 240 hours of community restitution.
During an interview Monday, Saar said he agreed to go on inactive status with the state Bar Association beginning in July.
“I made mistakes and I used bad judgment,” he said.
“I’m terribly sorry. I feel terrible about what I did,” he said “I would like to focus on my family going forward.”
San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord said he felt the sentence was appropriate for several reasons. Saar immediately paid back his client after the theft came to light.
“He said his intention was to borrow the money and not take it permanently,” Gaylord said.
Court records show that Saar was struggling with a foreclosure action.
Gaylord said the victims approved of the sentence. Plus, pleading to a Class B felony has severe consequences for Saar’s legal career.
Saar’s former partner, attorney Christon Skinner, forced him to withdraw from the law office of Skinner & Saar in February after receiving paperwork detailing alleged improprieties and over-billing by Saar.
Saar allegedly acted as trustee for the Edwin and Emily Upton Trust outside of the law firm and without his knowledge.
Saar is accused of depositing $42,000 from the trust into his own banking account. After another attorney took over the trust and discovered the missing money, Saar told the attorney he forgot to mention it and gave him a cashier’s check for the money, according to court documents from the Upton case.
Skinner explained in an interview that he looked through other estate cases that Saar handled and discovered “unusual transactions” in the estate of Gwendolyn Carol Wilson, which was handled at the firm’s Friday Harbor office.
Skinner said he asked Saar about the transactions, but Saar didn’t want to discuss it.
Skinner said he referred the information to the San Juan Sheriff’s Office.
The detective wrote in his report that Saar admitted forging four checks, totaling $99,000, from the Wilson estate and depositing the checks into his bank account.
Saar said he plans to start a company that provides ongoing education to lawyers in the state.