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Dancer embezzlement trial begins

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| March 24, 2009 12:00 AM

What the prosecution characterized as greed and breach of trust, a former Libby businessman’s defense called a business dispute.

The trial against William Dancer, 52, who is accused of embezzling more than $400,000 from his former employer, Independence Home Center Inc., began Monday. 

Dancer, who set up and ran the Libby site of the Sagle, Idaho-based manufactured home supplier, is accused of taking and spending money from home buyers that was intended for his employer. 

The five men and nine women in the jury box – 12 jurors and two alternates – listened Monday afternoon to opening statements and the state’s examination of IHC owner Darwin “Bill” Brown.

Prosecutors claimed that Dancer deposited six checks made out to his employer into his own bank accounts in 2005 and 2006, used money from other home sales to cover it up, beat up his supervisor, Brown’s son, when he was confronted and then skipped town.

Defense attorney Scott Hilderman said that Dancer and Brown had no real agreement about whether Dancer was an employee, subcontractor or partner. Hilderman argued that Dancer deposited checks into his bank accounts, much like a business partner would, to reimburse himself for expenditures that he paid out-of-pocket.

Brown emphatically denied Hilderman’s claim, stating that Dancer did not have permission to deposit money into his own accounts or to open a Libby account under IHC’s name. Brown said that only a few times, in an emergency, was Dancer authorized to pay a bill out-of-pocket.

Though Brown was in the dark about Dancer using and spending company funds, his son, Michael Brown, gave Dancer authorization for everything he did, Hilderman said.

Prosecutor Marcia Boris said that when Michael Brown confronted Dancer about missing funds, he admitted to embezzling $250,000 and putting the money toward his two Libby businesses and personal vehicles, saying that he was “overwhelmed” and would pay the company back in two weeks. 

Boris told the jury that Michael Brown would testify that Dancer beat him up after he said he was going to the police. Boris said that Dancer then cleaned out his bank accounts and moved to Spokane, Wash.

Hilderman said that Dancer was “overwhelmed” because his company wasn’t paying him his full commission and stopped reimbursing him for the business’s expenses. Michael Brown was the aggressor in a physical altercation with Dancer, Hilderman said.

In addition, Hilderman said, Dancer didn’t “skip town,” but rather moved his family, got a job under his own name and enrolled his kids in school.

Dancer is being charged with money laundering and six counts of embezzlement.