Freeland father, daughter plead ‘guilty’ in escrow case

A Freeland woman who ran an escrow company with her father is facing a year of jail time for bilking investors out of tens of thousands of dollars through complicated schemes.

Jenny A. Barrett recently pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court to theft in the first degree, tampering with physical evidence, engaging in business under the Escrow Agent Registration Act without a license, and three counts of Securities Act violations.

Several of the counts came with a special allegations that she “lulled” investors.

Her father, 94-year-old John A. Barrett, pleaded guilty to a single count of Securities Act violation.

Their sentencing hearing is set for March 31.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, the prosecutor will recommend a one-year sentence for Jenny Barrett and that she be ordered to pay restitution to the 11 victims. In addition, the prosecutor will ask the judge to bar her from engaging in business related to escrows, real property transactions, securities and other activities regulated under the Escrow Agency Registration Act.

The prosecutor and defense attorney will recommend that John Barrett receive a first-time offender waiver without any jail time. In addition, they will recommend that he pay restitution “on a joint and several basis” and that he be barred from engaging in escrow-related business.

The Barretts were principal officers in Barrett Escrow and Northwest Exchange and Trustee Inc., both of which were located in Freeland.

The Barretts are accused of borrowing money from clients, promising to repay with interest and then not repaying the principal. The Barretts allegedly secured loans with a 2.5-acre, commercial property in Freeland, which they reconveyed, or transferred with unencumbered ownership, back to themselves without telling the clients and without repaying the loans, according to the report by Deputy Gene Martin with the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Prosecutors also allege that Jenny Barrett acted as a securities promoter in relation to other investment loans with third parties in which the clients’ securities interests were undercut and the loans weren’t repaid.

The alleged theft came to light after a man happened to speak to a real estate broker who was trying to sell the property that the Barretts had used as collateral. He did a title search and uncovered the fraudulent reconveyance, the deputy wrote.