Dan Tang has friends in high places

It helps to have friends, and over the years, Heaven Dragon owner Dan Tang has made many of them, from cops and councilmen to mayors and lawyers.

Evidence and testimony collected in the Operation Fortune Cookie case shows that at least two of Tang's friends, both Adams County politicians, had contact with Tang after the police raids and held money for the restaurateur.

One of those is former Thornton mayor and current RTD vice-chairman Noel Busck, who, according to police transcripts obtained by Westword, told investigators that Tang contacted him after the raids and said that "police were tying up his funds."

Busck said he agreed to hold $400,000 in cash as a favor to his friend, and that he put it in a safe deposit box. The next day, Tang took the cash back, explaining that the police "knew about the money." When Tang tried to return the cash to the former mayor later that same night, Busck said, he refused. "Mr. Tang has been my friend for twenty years," Busck told Westword in May. "In those twenty years, he has never shown me any indication of any wrongdoing or anything I would consider inappropriate."

The former mayor hasn't been charged with any crimes.

Fred Schaefer, a director on the Adams County Board of Education, also held a stash of Tang's money, according to investigation interviews with a woman who worked briefly as Tang's security guard. The woman, who was introduced to Tang by Schaefer, told investigators that on the same day Tang gave $400,000 to Busck, she attended a meeting between Tang and Schaefer during which the lawyer agreed to hold nearly $400,000 for Tang for a short time in exchange for keeping $50,000 of it as a retainer.

Tang later told investigators that "Schaefer was aware" that he was trying to hide the cash the night he had taken the $400,000 to his house. The restaurateur also said that Schaefer later returned all but $5,416 of the retainer, which he kept as an attorney's fee, and that this money came from receipts skimmed from Heaven Dragon and payments received from family members he'd falsely employed.

Schaefer tells Westword that most of his attorney's fees were for work he did on Tang's criminal case before Tang hired new attorneys two days after the raids. "I worked a good amount on this case," says Schaefer, who has not been charged with any crimes.

The security guard also told investigators that Tang and Schaefer talked about "the Armadillo restaurant that was in both Tang's name and a woman named May. Schaefer talked about how they needed to deed it over to May so that it wouldn't get seized."

Schaeffer says he doesn't recall discussing the Armadillo, but notes that he helped negotiate Tang's purchase of the Armadillo, part of which he remembers the restaurateur paying for in cash. "Nobody had any clue he was involved with drug issues," says Schaefer. "Part of the Chinese culture is, if they can, to have cash on hand."

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner wouldn't comment on whether his office ever considered pressing charges against either politician.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner