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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former Harlan Douglass assistant must pay $1 million in damages; criminal trial pending

Spokane developer Harlan Douglass leaves a Spokane County courtroom on April 16, 2015. A jury ruled Wednesday that Douglass’ former personal assistant, 26-year-old Bryan Reilly, must pay his ex-employer nearly $1 million in damages for thefts of cash and jewelery occurring in 2015.  . (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The civil side of a case involving Spokane developer Harlan Douglass and one of his closest employees came to a close Wednesday afternoon, with 26-year-old Bryan Reilly found liable for almost $1 million in damages.

Reading from a list of decisions from the jury of four men and eight women, Spokane Superior Court Judge John Cooney ruled that Reilly, Douglass’ former personal assistant, must pay his former employer $800,000, plus 12 percent interest, for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash along with multiple Rolex watches and diamond rings.

Reilly, who was not in the courtroom for the verdict, will have to post a bond in the amount of the judgment, plus interest, if he wishes to appeal. He still faces two felony charges related to theft.

Douglass sued Reilly in early 2016, months after the Douglass family discovered a personal safe had been cracked at their Colbert home on Sept. 26, 2015, and more than $800,000 had gone missing. From the start, they told authorities they suspected Reilly, who worked for the real estate tycoon from 2010 to 2015.

Evidence of other thefts was discovered – a diamond ring worth more than $45,000 was gone; a pair of Rolex watches valued at just less than $50,000 were missing. Deposits were made into Reilly’s bank accounts of the exact amount of missing cash, and new trucks and boats purchased in full despite Reilly’s lack of reported income.

“I wholeheartedly agree with the outcome,” said Douglass’ attorney Steve Hassing, of Roseville, California.

In the courtroom Wednesday were Douglass and many of his family members, some of whom became teary eyed and hugged each other upon hearing the verdict. They declined requests for comment.

Court documents say Reilly was one of just a handful of people who knew the combination and contents of the safe, which Douglass had installed days before the heist. A house cleaner discovered shoeboxes full of cash in a hiding place, prompting her to urge Douglass to find a more secure location.

A day after the money was reported missing, the investigation took a strange turn when Reilly, who was not suspected at that point, reported finding a plastic bag half-buried in the woods on the 59-acre Colbert property with half the missing cash inside.

Reilly said he was out of town on the weekend of the theft at a resort with a friend, who verified his story, according to court records. Video surveillance from the resort showed Reilly’s vehicle arriving at the resort and leaving after the weekend was over.

But during their investigation, detectives uncovered financial information that suggested Reilly was “living above his means,” according to court records. State employment documents showed Reilly was paid a total of about $8,000 by Douglass for the first three quarters of 2015, and reported he had no other income.

Despite this, he purchased a new Ford truck valued at about $40,000, with no outstanding loan, meaning it was purchased in cash, and a Boston Whaler boat valued at around $50,000, court documents say.

A criminal case was brought against the 26-year-old in July 2016 for the missing watches and jewelry. According to court records, investigators were able to track the items through pawn shops and jewelry stores.

When Douglass sued in January 2016 for the missing cash, Reilly countersued, alleging Douglass’ lawsuit was malicious. This opened him up to deposition, where attorneys were able to ask him about the stolen items. On record, and according to court documents, he admitted to selling the jewelry, watches and several gold coins, but said not only had Douglass asked him to do it, but that he would split half the profit with him.

Investigators with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office amended charging documents to include further instances of theft that Reilly admitted to under oath. His criminal case, which includes charges of felony trafficking stolen property and possessing stolen property, is still pending.

Reilly has not been charged criminally in the theft of $800,000, according to court records.

A criminal trial is scheduled for June.