UPDATED: Flathead County Investigating Predatory Bailouts

By Beacon Staff

Authorities in northwestern Montana are investigating reports that a man who identifies himself as a pastor or a retired police officer is bailing women out of jail and trying to coerce sexual favors from them by threatening to revoke their bail.

“The most disturbing aspect of this is the vulnerability of these young women that he tends to be interested in,” public defender Nicholas Aemisegger told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “They’re desperate to get out of jail. Some of them have histories of drug addiction. It’s just a very vulnerable population. This is somebody who very clearly sought to take advantage of that.”

A bail bondsman alerted the Flathead County sheriff’s office about the man in late November, after he posted bond for one woman with the requirement that she live with him.

“They’d make the impression to us or the bonding company that they knew each other and both parties were 100 percent comfortable with the situation, which proved not to be true,” said Charles Pesola, owner of Moonlighting Bail Bonds. Pesola said he released the woman from the obligation of having to stay with the man.

Aemisegger said he was wary of the man when he tried to bail out one of his clients last month.

“He was very persistent in trying to get her out of jail,” Aemisegger said. “He talked a good talk. He seemed to have a genuine interest, seemed to have some type of relationship with my first client.”

Aemisegger said he didn’t have the sense that it involved “predatory behavior” until his second client refused the man’s sexual advances and the man moved to revoke her bond, which also required that she live with him. The revocation issue came up when the woman was in court on Dec. 16.

“My client told the judge that this man had told her he was married, had children and was a pastor,” Aemisegger said. “She showed up at his place and there was no wife, no family.”

“He indicated to me that he was a former officer, that he was retired,” Aemisegger said.

Pesola said the man also told him he was a retired assistant police chief, but Pesola did not verify that. “We don’t necessarily check into the history of who they say they are or what they say they are,” Pesola said.

“We suspect there’s an individual in the jail that’s an inmate that’s putting these girls in touch with him,” Pesola said.

Sheriff Chuck Curry said his agency is investigating but that sometimes the victims are hard to locate. He said he believes there were three or four women involved.

“These are people who have been incarcerated, so sometimes they’re not the easiest people to come up with,” he said. “They aren’t all coming forward.”

Curry would not identify the suspect because the investigation is not complete and no charges have been filed.