Former AEWC Executive Charged With Embezzlement

The former executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission has been charged with embezzling nearly half a million dollars from the organization. Maggie Ahmaogak was executive director of AEWC from 1990 until 2007. According to the indictment released today, she began stealing from the organization in 2004. Assistant US Attorney Aunnie Steward says she stole the money in multiple ways.

In June, another former Executive Director of AEWC was also charged with stealing from the organization. Teresa Judkins, who took over the job after Maggie Ahmaogak was terminated, was accused of using commission funds to buy a snowmachine and take payroll advances she never repaid. A court date for that trial is set for March of next year. Steward says the Department of Justice learned of the thefts from AEWC.

Johnny Aiken is the current Executive Director of AEWC. He confirms that staff within AEWC contacted federal authorities about financial concerns within the organization. He’s been in the position since April of 2010.

Aiken says both past directors are respected, long time community members.

Aiken says AEWC commissioners brought in new staff after problems surfaced at the organization and he says all staff has cooperated fully with the federal investigation. He says they now have an independent accounting company.

The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission is a non-profit formed in 1976 to protect subsistence whaling of bowhead whales. It receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding each year from the Department of Commerce. It also receives funding from the North Slope Borough. This year that amount was $750,000. Borough Mayor Edward Itta wanted the organization to strengthen their accounting and auditing practices as well as stabilize staffing.

If convicted of stealing from the organization, Ahmoagak faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution for the stolen funds.

Maggie Ahmoagak’s husband, George, is running for Mayor of the North Slope Borough.

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Annie Feidt is the Editor and Producer of Alaska News Nightly, and is also a frequent contributor to the show. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49thstate just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie