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Shamed lawyer released early, suing neighbor

Saar - Jessie Stensland photo
Saar
— image credit: Jessie Stensland photo

A former Oak Harbor attorney who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients was released from prison early and jumped back into litigation — only now he’s just representing himself.

Douglas Saar, disbarred in 2013, filed a lawsuit in Island County Superior Court Dec. 7 against Lee Roof, a Coupeville doctor. The lawsuit accuses Roof of trespassing at a home Saar owns near Oak Harbor and leaving letters with “damaging and defamatory information” for renters to find.

In addition, Saar is appealing a court order directing him to pay more than $200,000 in restitution to his victims.

Saar pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court in February to two counts of theft and one count of money laundering for stealing from two dead clients, including a woman with a trust that was supposed to go to Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, also known as WAIF.

Prior to that, he pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in related cases in San Juan and Island County courtrooms.

During his sentencing hearing Feb. 6, Saar’s attorney argued that his client should be sentenced under a Parenting Sentencing Alternative, which would mean no prison time. Saar and his wife have two small children and two college-age kids.

The judge, however, ruled that the special sentencing alternative was not appropriate and sentenced him to 17 months in prison.

In prison, however, Saar managed to convince Department of Corrections officials to release him early under the same Parenting Sentencing Alternative.

Saar served only four months, according to Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks.

Banks complained to Bernie Warner, then-secretary of the Department of Corrections. Banks noted that the judge made it clear that Saar should serve his time behind bars and that the Parenting Sentencing Alternative was “totally inappropriate,” given that his family is otherwise intact, his wife has a master’s degree and his family has “tremendous financial resources that make them one-percenters.”

“I’m surprised that, after a judge makes a considered decision in a case where the issue was fully litigated, a corrections staff member can, and would, simply overrule the judge’s decision,” Banks wrote.

In response, Warner called Banks and discussed the issue. Warner said he agrees that corrections staff should check whether things like family offender sentencing was rejected by a judge before granting early release and said he would consider amending the policy, Banks said.

During a restitution hearing last summer, the judge ordered Saar to pay $138,000 to the Upton trust and $153,000 to the Froman estate, which was bequeathed to WAIF. The judge ordered him to pay $1,000 a month in restitution, to be divided evenly between the two victims’ trust accounts.

Saar filed an appeal of the restitution order on Nov. 23.

Two weeks later, Saar filed the lawsuit against Roof, his former neighbor. The lawsuit claims that Roof trespassed onto the Saars’ property and threw typewritten letters on the front porch on four different occasions in November. Security video footage shows Roof delivering the letters just before 6 a.m. — “under the cover of darkness” — while dressed in pajama bottoms or wearing a hood, according to Saar’s declaration.

In one of the letters, which is part of the court file, Roof allegedly wrote that Saar was serving time for stealing from his clients and somehow convinced a bankruptcy judge to award him the house, which he converted into a vacation rental.

“This house was built, in part, with funds he stole from people who trusted him,” the letter states.

“When one stays at this house, it allows him to continue to reap the rewards of his criminal activity.”

The lawsuit indicates that the Saar family no longer lives in the Whidbey Island house — assessed at about $1 million — but Saar still owns it.

“Business invitees” stay at the house, the lawsuit states.

Saar alleges that Roof placed the letters for the business invitees to see, thus interfering with business relationships and causing economic loss.

Saar is asking for special and general damages.

Saar did not return a call for comment. Roof said he had no comment.

 

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