He used money supposed to help train police dogs to pay for his own bills and expenses

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A former longtime Skagit County Sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to 60 days in prison and six months home confinement with electronic monitoring after embezzling more than $33,000 from a regional police dog handlers organization.

Brian A. Lehr, 53 of Sedro-Woolley, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to a Department of Justice press release, when U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour called Lehr’s actions a “breach of trust.”

According the release, Leher for six years stole money from the Pacific Northwest Police Detection Dog Association, which according to its website was founded by canine law enforcement officers to enhance professionalism and training of detection dog teams throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Bellingham Police Department and the Washington State Patrol are among the 18 participating agencies from Washington State.

Lehr served as secretary and treasurer of the organization beginning in 1998, according to the release, and used funds to pay for his own restaurant bills, hotel and event expenses and even cable TV and phone bills.

According to the release, Lehr prepared a financial report showing that the association had nearly $20,000 in its bank account, when he had stolen all but $276.79. He made payment directly from the account on his own bills, used an associated debit card to pay for personal expenses and withdrew cash from the association’s accounts.

Lehr pleaded guilty to wire fraud in December, according to the release.

Because of the theft, the release said the association has not been able to bring in trainers to work with narcotic detection dogs and hasn’t been able to purchase equipment or update its website. The association also had its reputation damaged in the law enforcement community, making it more difficult to recruit new members.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.