Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Utah-based lawyer Calvin Curtis pled guilty in a federal court earlier this month to embezzling millions of dollars from his clients, including Glenn McConkey, the mother of late freeskiing pioneer Shane McConkey. Glenn, who’s 79 and is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia and lives in a full-time care facility in Utah, initially hired Curtis, an estate attorney in Salt Lake City who specializes in elder law, special needs trusts, and estate planning for those with disabilities, in 2014.
According to a Department of Justice statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah, Curtis admitted that in his role as trustee for Glenn’s account, he transferred at least $9.5 million from Glenn’s estate into his own personal accounts and also created fraudulent financial statements, which he sent to the court-appointed conservator of Glenn’s accounts, a company called Stagg Fiduciary Services, to hide the money laundering. Curtis allegedly used the funds to remodel his own home, pay for personal travel, and support his law firm operations.
“Calvin Curtis’ greed had devastating consequences for his clients, who placed their trust and money in his hands,” said Dennis Rice, Special Agent in Charge of the Salt Lake City FBI. In a recent civil lawsuit, Curtis was ordered to pay more than $12 million in damages to Glenn, while prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence of six years.
Glenn, who spent her career in real estate and owned dozens of properties, was always generous with her time and money. “Here was this woman who was a remarkable athlete who had an absolute passion for the outdoors and skiing, and she was also a charitable woman, kind and thoughtful,” says Bob Greer, who dated Glenn from 2002 until 2010. “She often did kind things anonymously and I believe that says a lot about a person’s character.”
Glenn volunteered during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and she donated money to many charities. Giving was a trait that got passed down to Shane, too: The McConkey Foundation, which his wife Sherry set up in Shane’s name after his death, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to educational and environmental programs since its inception in 2011.
Shane was born in 1969 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the son of Jim McConkey, a pioneering Canadian skier, and Glenn, a Californian who met Jim on the slopes of Tahoe’s Sugar Bowl ski area. They separated when Shane was 3 years old.
Glenn McConkey always said that her son, Shane, became what he was—one of freeskiing’s most influential and memorable athletes—because his other plans didn’t pan out.
“Shane became what he was in part because he got dumped from his dream, and he had to create another dream for himself,” Glenn said at Shane’s memorial service. Shane died in 2009, at the age of 39, in a ski BASE jumping accident in the Italian Dolomites, leaving behind Sherry and their then 3-year-old daughter Ayla.
Shane grew up skiing in Tahoe and attended a ski racing academy on the East Coast for high school, but when he was cut from the U.S. Ski Team’s development program, he tried mogul skiing instead. But then he was disqualified for throwing a backflip in a mogul contest at Vail, in Colorado, and ended up running the course naked in protest, capped off by an infamously-captured nude spread eagle.
Shane moved to Tahoe in the mid-’90s and started skiing steep lines and launching cliffs, ushering in the then-burgeoning sport of freeskiing. He’s credited with forming the International Freeskiers Association, coining the term freeskiing, and inventing the reverse-camber powder ski.
Glenn, his mother, was a superior athlete, too: A ski racer in her youth, she went on to become an eight-time National Masters Champion in ski racing in her 50s and 60s. She moved from California to Park City in part to focus on her masters ski racing career.
“She was always skiing like she was going through the gates, always at full speed,” says Ted Keane, a longtime friend of Glenn’s.
Before Shane died, friends and family began to notice changes in Glenn: She would forget things or get easily confused. After Shane died, things got much worse and she became estranged from Sherry and Ayla. In 2014, weeks before Glenn was institutionalized for her deteriorating mental health, she hired Curtis as her estate attorney, and Ayla, her only remaining relative, was removed as a beneficiary in her will.
Ayla was initially slated to inherit 25 percent of Glenn’s estate, estimated to be around $15 million, while the remaining 75 percent would go to a collection of charities. But once Ayla was removed from the will, all of Glenn’s estate was intended to be donated to charity.
After 2014, Curtis, then the trustee of Glenn’s accounts, began to sell many of Glenn’s properties and he put that money into a charitable remainder trust, where money is eventually donated to charitable causes but the donor receives an income stream from the trust—only the income wasn’t going to Glen’s account; it was going to Curtis’.
It took years for anyone to notice, but in 2018, Sherry reached out to Curtis regarding a property in Mexico that Shane had owned but it had ended up in Glenn’s name. “For four years, he was ignoring me or saying he was busy,” Sherry says. “It didn’t feel right.” Sherry hired Laura Milliken Gray, an estate attorney in Salt Lake City, to look into Glenn’s situation and to help her get the property in Mexico back.
“It is not typical to select your attorney as your trustee. It’s rife with conflict,” says Gray. “When you sign documents—a will, a trust—you have to make sure that person has the right capacity, that they’re in their right mind. I started looking into it and I saw that Glenn changed her will and within six weeks, she had so many incidents with law enforcement that she was removed from her home and taken to a psych ward. I realized very quickly that something was not right.”
Curtis was eventually removed as trustee of Glenn’s account and in 2021, he turned himself in.
Sherry is now in the midst of a civil lawsuit to attempt to get Ayla reinstated in Glenn’s will, but at this point, Sherry says what she cares about most is that Glenn has enough funds to cover the care she needs for the remainder of her life.
“Glenn was an amazing mother to Shane. She was a smart businesswoman, a loving grandmother,” Sherry says. “We’re her only family left. To me, money is such a weird thing. It’s been a long frustrating process and so many people have been victimized. But we need to get justice for Glenn and the others. We need to make sure they are taken care of.”