In January 1995, former Kalispell resident Chad Emery was awarded $1.1 million in a product liability lawsuit after he was severely brain damaged by a marshmallow that became lodged in his throat when he was 2 years old. The $420,000 left after debts were settled and attorney’s fees were paid, according to Chad’s current guardian, John “Matt” Shearer, should have provided income to help pay for Chad’s care the rest of his life.
To make sure the money lasted, and was used strictly for Chad’s care, Flathead County District Court appointed a conservator to supervise Chad’s money.
That conservator was Richard “Dick” Dasen Sr.
Dasen, for anybody who hasn’t followed Flathead Valley news the last few years, was convicted on three counts of felony prostitution, one count of misdemeanor prostitution, one count of felony sexual abuse of children and one count of promotion of prostitution in May of 2005, for which he received two years in prison. The Flathead County Attorney’s office accused Dasen of spending millions of dollars to procure sexual favors from local women.
So the suspicions of Chad’s guardian and Kalispell police were raised when they learned that five years after becoming conservator of Chad’s money, Dasen had submitted a one-sentence letter to Flathead County District Court stating that Chad’s money was gone.
In a police report on the Emery case, Kalispell Police Detective Sergeant Brian Fulford writes that a box containing files for Emery’s conservatorship caught his eye when he helped conduct the initial search of Dasen’s offices in February 2004. At the time, Fulford was also investigating a separate case in which Chad’s mother, Laura Emery, was accused of neglecting the boy.
Laura Emery was never formally charged with neglecting Chad, but in May 2004 she consented to the court’s appointment of Shearer, who was a Kalispell social worker with Montana Adult Protective Services until his retirement as Chad’s guardian in September.
Contacted by the Independent, Laura denies neglecting Chad.
By July 2004, according to Fulford’s police report, Dasen’s attorney had told Fulford that Dasen had loaned money to Laura Emery from Chad’s account. At the same time, Dasen was giving Laura $3,000 per month out of the account for Chad’s care. Because she had no other source of income, the report states that Laura was likely using the money earmarked for Chad’s care to pay back the personal loans. At one time, according to Fulford’s report, Laura owed Chad’s trust account more than $40,000.
In July 2004, Detective Fulford made an entry into his report asserting that a forensic accounting should be undertaken, since Dasen’s records were not “complete enough to get a clear accounting of where the money went.”
At that point, Shearer began investigating Dasen’s own records, as well as bank records for the account.
On Sept. 21, 2006, Shearer’s findings were added to Emery’s court file.
In a letter that accompanies a thick file of accounting records, Shearer writes that a “Preliminary review [of the records] indicated that conservator Dasen moved monies through his own company, kept more than one account for Chad Emery, and paid out redundant and excessive amounts of money to Laura Emery and others.”
According to Shearer’s report, $203,000 of Emery’s money went to Marksman Construction, a company contracted by Laura Emery to remodel the family home in Kalispell. At least some of this money, Shearer writes, was “lost in failed arrangements with the contractor.”
Another $25,000 was paid out to Laura so that she could start a franchise business.
“The money was lost,” Shearer writes, “as the business shortly failed.”
Shearer’s letter references one of Dasen’s American Express bills that he paid with money from Chad’s account, and the accounting file includes an American Express receipt for a $727.51 hotel room in Philadelphia.
But ultimately, Shearer’s report raises more questions than it answers.
“Many of the signatures on the checks do not look like Mr. Dasen’s handwriting,” Shearer writes. “There are large payments for which we cannot account, e.g., $8433.02 to HCB Trust Account, $28,907.29 to County Guarantee Title.”
The report also points out that the last entry on the ledger for the account that held Emery’s money indicates a $125,000 negative balance.
“Did Mr. Dasen pay the bank the outstanding $125,000?” Shearer asks in the report.
The Kalispell law firm of Bottomly and Ellingson retained a forensic accountant to examine Chad’s account, free of charge, according to Shearer’s letter. The firm also represents a girl who was awarded more than $2 million in a 2006 civil suit against Dasen, which Dasen is appealing. Despite the irregularities pointed out by Shearer, Bottomly and Ellingson concluded “There was not evidence of gross fiduciary malfeasance, fraud, or theft.”
John Dudis Jr., an attorney for Dasen, tells the Independent he has yet to see Shearer’s report, but says, “I’m not aware that Mr. Dasen had done anything improper with Chad Emery’s money.”
Dudis says many baseless accusations were made against Dasen after he was arrested.
“When you’re down, it’s pile on time,” he says.
Fulford, Shearer and Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrrigan say it’s unlikely charges will ever be filed against Dasen or Laura Emery regarding the conservatorship. Fulford points out that there’s a five-year statute of limitations on non-homicide felonies, and that time has elapsed. He and Corrigan also note that with civil judgments and a tax judgment against him, Dasen will likely be broke before anyone could lay claim to his money on Chad’s behalf. According to Dudis, Dasen owes millions in tax liens independent of civil judgments against him.
“Essentially, Mr. Dasen is destitute,” Dudis says.
But Laura Emery says she would still like to see the case investigated further. She says she did not receive the amounts of money from the account that the reports indicate, and she believes it was Dasen who spent it.
Laura now lives in Spokane, where Chad is institutionalized. She says Chad now relies on Medicaid payments from the state of Washington for his care. Dasen remains at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, having served half his two-year sentence.