After the swimsuit, evening gown and interview portions of the 1997 Miss USA pageant in Shreveport, La., Miss Montana Christin Didier's aggregated score was 8.67 out of 10. It was good enough to place her in the top 15 of competitors, but well behind Hawaii's Brook Lee, who would go on to win both Miss USA and Miss Universe.
Since then, Didier's life has been like a made-for-TV movie. After trying her hand at modeling, she opened Aunt Kissy's Bed and Breakfast in Lewistown. She also bought a historic mansion in Somers. And last Friday, a jury in federal district court in Missoula found her guilty on nine counts of felony charges.
Didier's troubles began in 2005 when she purchased the Somers Mansion, a 7,982-square-foot home overlooking Flathead Lake. In July 2007, a windstorm ripped through the Flathead Valley and tore sections of roof off Didier's house. Six months later, the mansion suffered further damage from a fire. After a month of repair, it became clear the 110-year-old home needed a major renovation and Didier would have to move out for the remodel. The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies agreed to pay for temporary housing. Then things got tricky.
Late in January 2008, Didier reported to Chubb that her friend (and co-defendant) Surayya Mahasin Nasir had secured a rental house for Didier just south of Somers. Didier claimed the home was 6,900-square-feet with five bedrooms and an in-ground pool. Chubb approved and, after paying Nasir a broker's fee of $10,875, the company paid Didier $15,250 a month for rent.
What Didier did not divulge to the insurance company was that her $15,250 a month "rental" property was actually an 890-square-foot cabin with no indoor plumbing that her family already owned.
At the Russell Smith Courthouse last week Didier's attorney, Colin Stephens, argued that Didier's actions were not a deviant act of fraud. During the initial repairs, he said that a company hired by Chubb to repair the fire damage had used diesel-powered generators that gave Didier carbon-monoxide poisoning. An expert witness testified that to this day Didier's mental faculties are "significantly impaired," and she wasn't capable of such an elaborate scheme.
The jury, however, was unmoved. It found the former Miss Montana guilty of eight counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy, and responsible for duping her insurance company for $133,666.50.
Didier faces up to 25 years in prison at her July 11 sentencing hearing.