Over a year ago, several members of the Brown family and stars of the popular series “Alaskan Bush People,” were charged in Alaska state court on dozens of counts of Permanent Fund Dividend fraud and felony theft. Alaskans may receive a PFD if they are residents of the state for at least one year. According to a November 18 article from Alaska Dispatch News, the 62-year-old family patriarch Billy Brown and his son, 31-year-old Joshua (Bam Bam) Brown, each pled guilty to a single count of second-degree unsworn falsification.
As part of the plea deal, Billy Brown signed a statement saying that he was not a resident of Alaska from October 2009 until August 2012. “By submitting falsified PFD applications for myself and my children, I stole $7,956 from the people of Alaska,” Brown wrote. “Contrary to what was stated on several Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) applications, I did not have a ‘principal’ place of abode’ on Mossman Island during the years 2009-13.” KTUU reports that both men have agreed to repay the state, and to serve two years of probation. They will be required to complete 40 hours of community service as well, and one stipulation states that the show cannot film them when they are complying with their community service requirements
The Brown’s may not get off that easily, however. Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg will take another look at the Brown’s plea deal on Thursday afternoon. He called PFD fraud a serious matter and said that in previous cases, it deserved time in jail. “PFD fraud is a serious matter. It’s a theft from everybody, every resident of the state of Alaska,” Pallenberg said. “In prior cases, prior cases that involved felony convictions, I think it’s an offense that deserves jail time.” He went on to say that if convicted of a charge of unsworn falsification, which is a misdemeanor, up to a year in jail and fines of up to $10,000 can be sentenced.
If he does accept this plea deal, prosecutors will drop all charges against 52-year-old Amora (Ami) Brown, 28-year-old Solomon (Bear) Brown, 25-year-old Gabriel (Gabe) Brown and 23-year-old Noah Brown. Each of them will still be required to repay about $3,000 back in dividends, and complete 20 hours of community service. At this time, there is no word on where they might do their community service. Since they live out in a remote area of the Alaskan wilderness, they may have to temporarily move into a town such as Hoonah to fulfill their sentences.
What do you think of the plea deal? Will the judge accept the terms? Are you a fan of the show? Leave your comments, thoughts and opinions below. “Alaskan Bush People” airs on Wednesday’s at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery channel.
Update: Judge Pallenberg has rejected the deal, despite Assistant Attorney General Lisa Kelley with the state of Alaska’s Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals urging the judge to do otherwise. A new court date has been set for December 3.