Alaskan Bush People Stars Plead Guilty to Lying About Living in Alaska to Collect Oil Revenue Checks
An Alaskan judge rejected two of the Discovery Channel show's stars' plea agreements
An Alaska judge has rejected the plea deals of Billy and Joshua Brown, stars of the Discovery Channel show Alaskan Bush People, who pled guilty on Wednesday to lying about their residency in order to receive the yearly oil revenue checks given to Alaska residents, the Associated Press reports.
Billy, 62, and Joshua, 31, claimed to have been living in Alaska from 2009 to 2012, but were in fact residing in Seattle during this time.
In a plea deal submitted Wednesday, the Browns each agreed to repay the state the money they received, serve two years of probation – but no jail time – and perform 40 hours of community service.
“By submitting falsified [Permanent Fund Dividend] applications for myself and my children, I stole $7,956 from the people of Alaska,” Billy wrote in a signed statement included in the plea deal, reports Anchorage’s KTUU News.
The statement continues, “I left Alaska in October 2009 and did not return until August 2012. 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.”
On Thursday, however, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg rejected the agreements, saying he believes the sentences should involve jail time, the Alaska Dispatch News reports.
Pallenberg noted that in stealing PFD payments, the Browns were essentially stealing from actual Alaska residents, as the total payout is divided evenly among all dividend applicants. According to KTUU, the judge estimated that this amounts to stealing approximately three cents per Alaskan.
“I don’t think the Browns should be treated more harshly because they have a TV show. … But they certainly shouldn’t be treated more leniently because of that either,” Pallenberg said. “Someone living in a trailer in the Valley [who] stole $2,000 worth of merchandise from Wal-Mart, they would serve jail time.”
The case will return to court for further judgment on Dec. 3.