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Sex Scandal Rocks Montana Town

Businessman Alleged To Have Paid Women More Than $1 Million

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 2004; Page A03

KALISPELL, Mont. -- Until he was arrested this year in his underwear in a motel room with a nearly naked young woman who was behind in her payments to his finance company, no businessman in this town was more respected than Richard A. Dasen Sr.

He had won the "Great Chief" award, the highest honor a local business leader can receive from the Chamber of Commerce. A nominating letter for the award described him as "the epitome of the reason we all want to live in the Kalispell area."

Before his arrest, Dasen ran Christian Financial Counseling, which helped people with debts. (Photos Robin Loznak)

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Dasen was an energetic force in the construction of a hospital, a ski resort and a large hotel that established this northwest Montana town of 15,000 as a player in the convention business of the Rocky Mountain West. He was impressively energetic, too, in charitable and social causes, serving as a church elder, helping teenagers finish high school and volunteering his time to Christian Financial Counseling, which helped people manage debts.

Since his arrest in February in a sting operation at a cut-rate local motel, police have unearthed a side of Dasen's life that, while impressively energetic, is decidedly less civic-minded.

Dasen, 62, who is married with grown children and several grandchildren, has allegedly told police that over the past decade he paid more than $1 million to have sex with a large number of young women, many of whom were in legal trouble, addicted to drugs and in debt to him, according to court documents.

When police asked Dasen how many of these women there had been, he said there had been too many to count.

Dasen apparently lost count, too, police say, of how much money he paid all these women.

Investigators counting his checks -- he paid by check, in amounts of $1,000 to $6,000 per encounter, sometimes as much as $130,000 a month -- now estimate that Dasen spent at least $5 million, said Charles Harball, the city attorney.

"He pretty much single-handedly funded the methamphetamine trade here in Kalispell for a number of years," Harball said, as women used the money Dasen paid them to pay for their habits.

Since Dasen's arrest the flow of money to local methamphetamine users seems to have dried up, Harball said, adding that there has been a "flood of petty crime from addicts seeking cash for their habit."

Police continue to investigate where Dasen's money came from.

"He had access to a lot of funds from a lot of different sources, and there is really no accounting for any of it," Harball said.

The state Department of Public Health and Human Services is also trying to find out what Dasen, as a court-appointed conservator, did with $500,000 awarded in a product-liability settlement for the long-term care of a severely brain-damaged child.

In an affidavit filed last month in the county court overseeing the conservatorship, a state social worker said the money under Dasen's control disappeared with "no formal accounting" between 1995 and 2000. Since then, the child, having turned up in the local hospital with severe malnutrition and infected ulcers on his backside, has become a ward of the state.

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