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Former Oak Harbor attorney accused of stealing WAIF bequest

Douglas Saar, at left, appears in court with Coupeville attorney Charles Arndt. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Douglas Saar, at left, appears in court with Coupeville attorney Charles Arndt.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Alleged theft and money laundering by a former Oak Harbor attorney resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars for Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, according to the president of the nonprofit group’s board.

Douglas Saar, 40, formerly of the Law Office of Skinner and Saar, is accused of stealing from estates he represented, including one that named Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, commonly known as WAIF, as the sole beneficiary.

Saar pleaded not guilty in Island County Superior Court Monday to four counts of theft in the first degree, one count of theft in the second degree and nine counts of money laundering.

Both Superior Court judges recused themselves, so a judge from Skagit County Superior Court appeared telephonically.

Whidbey resident Jean Froman bequeathed her estate to WAIF, which runs animal shelters for Island County and the city of Oak Harbor. The estimated value was $550,000, according to Bob Rupp, the president of the volunteer board.

Rupp estimates that WAIF may end up receiving about $140,000 of the money, because of the alleged thefts and the fees owed to new attorneys who are settling the estate complicated by Saar’s alleged actions.

Saar allegedly took about $180,000 from the Froman estate, according to Rupp and Cindy Wilbert, the treasurer for WAIF.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks confirmed that WAIF was the beneficiary of the Froman estate, but he didn’t know the exact amount of the suspected theft or the loss.

Rupp said it’s not uncommon for people to give part or all of their estates to WAIF. But the Froman estate was especially large and would have come at an opportune time.

“It would have been very helpful because we’re building a new shelter,” he said. “The $3.8-million facility will be a blessing to the entire community.”

Saar is accused of stealing from both the Froman and the Upton estates while he was acting as a trustee, 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.

Last summer, Saar pleaded guilty in San Juan Superior Court to stealing nearly $100,000 from the Wilson Trust.

For that, he was sentenced to 30 days of electronic home detention and 240 hours of community restitution.

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 about $100,000 from the trust was lost in legal fees since 2012 to uncover the theft and recover the money.

 

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