Thief steals $800,000 from Spokane developer Harlan Douglass
March 18, 2016 Updated Fri., March 18, 2016 at 6:10 p.m.
Spokane developer Harlan Douglass suspects his longtime assistant cracked his personal safe and stole $800,000 in cash.
Douglass kept four shoeboxes full of cash at his Colbert home and last September had a safe installed. While he was out of the country, a thief pulled off the sort of heist a property crimes detective called “absurd” for Spokane County.
Douglass’ son, Harley Douglass, reported someone took the cash from his father’s safe on the morning of Sept. 26, 2015. The theft was discovered after private security officers reported seeing lights on in the house during the middle of the night, then found an open window in the basement.
Spokane County sheriff’s deputies responded to Douglass’ 59-acre property in Colbert and found the safe door open. It had not been forced. They also discovered a rag had been placed over a motion sensor mounted above the safe.
The investigation took a strange turn the following day, when a member of the Douglass family found a plastic bag in the woods on the 59-acre property with half the missing cash inside.
A property crimes detective followed up and found significant evidence suggesting the theft was an inside job. A screen on the open window had been removed and placed inside the house, and furniture sitting right outside the window was untouched.
The detective also noted a new security system, which was not fully functional, had been installed about a week earlier. He wrote it was unlikely a burglar would enter the house at such an opportune time and take only cash from the safe without touching the many other valuables in the house.
The detective also discussed the case with about 20 property crimes detectives and said “no one had ever heard of any such absurd circumstances” in a burglary, court documents say.
Investigators interviewed a house cleaner, who told them she had discovered a large amount of cash and valuables in the house during her work and urged Douglass to secure his valuables since she felt uncomfortable knowing about his hiding place. As a result, Douglass installed the safe.
Sometime after that, the house cleaner said she saw a Post-it note on the floor of the home with the safe combination written on it. She put it on the counter so Douglass could find it. She told investigators it’s possible Douglass’ other staff, including his assistant, could have seen it.
The detective determined Douglass’ 23-year-old assistant, Bryan Reilly, and two Douglass family members could have had access to the safe while Douglass was out of town, but both family members passed polygraph examinations and urged detectives to continue investigating the case.
Reilly said he was out of town for the weekend at a resort with a friend, who verified his story. Video surveillance from the resort showed Reilly’s vehicle arriving at the resort and leaving after the weekend was over.
But detectives uncovered financial information that suggested more investigation is needed, court documents say. State employment records show Douglass paid Reilly a total of $8,137.50 for the first three quarters of 2015. Reilly reported no other income. In spite of this, he recently purchased a new Ford truck valued at about $40,000 with no outstanding loan and a Boston Whaler boat valued around $50,000, court documents say.
Detectives filed a warrant this week for the assistant’s bank records. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory said the investigation is ongoing and declined to comment further.
Apparently dissatisfied with the criminal investigation into the theft of his money, Douglass filed a civil suit against Reilly in January, accusing him and other unnamed parties of stealing the cash. The suit asks for the cash to be returned to Douglass with 12 percent annual interest, plus legal fees.
In a counterclaim, Reilly, who worked for Douglass from 2004 until last fall, said the claim accuses him without establishing that he “has access to the property, where the property was located or what the stolen property even consists of.”
Reilly’s attorney, Jason Johnson, said the claim Reilly stole from Douglass is absurd.
“Not only was he not present in the vicinity, but there’s video showing he was not present,” Johnson said.
Johnson filed a motion this week asking for the suit to be dismissed and said he expects a jury to find in favor of his client easily if the case reaches trial.
“Obviously they have a certain level of money to bring suits and my client has to defend against that,” he said.
Douglass’ attorney, Stephen Hassing, declined to comment on the suit.
A hearing is scheduled for April 15.
Less than a month ago, Douglass pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for slapping an opposing attorney during a heated civil suit involving one of his properties. He received credit for one day in jail and paid $700 in court fees.
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