Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Financially Struggling Attorney Facing Foreclosure Dodges Jail Time, Gets 30 Days House Arrest For Allegedly Ripping Off Nearly $100K From Dead Client's Estate

In San Juan County, Washington, the San Juan Journal reports:

  • The seemingly successful career of a Whidbey Island attorney came to an apparent end two weeks ago in a San Juan County courtroom.

    On June 14, Douglas Allen Saar, 39, formerly of the law offices of Skinner & Saar, pleaded guilty in San Juan County Superior Court to one count of first-degree theft, a Class B felony. Convicted felons are typically barred from practicing law in Washington state.

    He was ordered by Judge Don Eaton to serve 60 days in jail and to pay $1,000 in fines and fees; however, under a sentencing alternative agreed to by local prosectors and the defense as part of a plea agreement, and approved by the judge, Saar will serve no jail time.

    In lieu of 60 days in jail, Saar will be allowed to serve 30 days under house arrest and to perform 240 hours of community restitution. The court-ordered fines and fees were paid by Saar on the day the sentence was handed down.

    As part of a statement to the court, Saar said he agreed to go on inactive status with the Washington State Bar Association beginning in July, and faces possible disciplinary action. He intends to form a company that provides ongoing education to lawyers in under-represented areas of the state.

    According to court documents, Saar reportedly admitted to a detective that he forged signatures on four checks totaling nearly $100,000 from the estate of Gwendolyn Wilson and deposited the money into his personal checking account. He reportedly paid the money back to the San Juan Island estate, along with interest, while the alleged theft was under investigation.

    A minority partner in the Skinner & Saar law practice, Saar was forced to withdraw from the firm in February after his former partner received paperwork detailing alleged improprieties and over-billing by Saar in an unrelated case involving a Whidbey Island estate.

    The Oak-Harbor based firm established a branch office in Friday Harbor several years ago after purchasing the private practice of the late John Linde.

    Saar reportedly violated the firm's policies by representing the Whidbey Island estate independently and is alleged to have misappropriated $42,000 of estate funds and deposited the money into a personal bank account. He has since reimbursed the family of that estate.

    Following Saar's departure from the firm, his former partner notified law enforcement officials in San Juan County of possible theft involving the San Juan Island estate after he reportedly discovered a series of billing discrepancies.

    According to court records, Saar had been struggling to fend off a foreclosure action involving personal property of his own.

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