Alaska News Nightly: October 1, 2012

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Five Accused of Embezzling $500,000 from Trident in Kodiak

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

Five people have been indicted on charges of embezzling almost a half-million dollars from the Trident Seafoods plant in Kodiak. U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward says the nearly $500,000 discrepancy was discovered some time after bookkeeper Isa Wolfe was fired two years ago:

“She’d been there a very long time, and actually was there years before the embezzlement started,” Steward said. “And when she was terminated the folks that came in to take over discovered that a lot of fraudulent accounting had been going on for quite some time.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office alleges that Wolfe wrote 52 checks from the Trident Seafoods account between January 2008 and August 2010 to four friends and the underage son of one of them. Also indicted were Jeremy Smith and Jamie Fathke of Kodiak, Anne Wilson of Kent, Washington, and Valerie Olivares of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Steward says Wolfe was taken into custody on Friday and Smith was already jailed on unrelated charges and turned over to federal custody. The two are scheduled to be arraigned this (Monday) afternoon in Anchorage federal court. No arraignment date was announced for Wilson and Olivares. Fathke has not yet been taken into custody.

Steward said the next steps in the prosecution, such as court dates, will be determined by a judge:

“We’ll have a better idea of that after the initial appearance,” she said. “And the court will set a schedule for those things.”

Steward said the maximum total sentence is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both, for each count, as well as restitution for the amount embezzled. Under the federal sentencing statutes, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.

A reminder that an indictment is only a charge and a defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Trident spokesman John van Amerongen could not be reached for comment.

Work Continues To Create ‘Transboundary Area of Shared Beringian Heritage’

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

National Parks spanning the Bering Strait are now in a stage of active planning after last month’s agreement between Russia and the United States to go ahead with them. The Russian National Park head has been looking at public lands in Alaska for the past two weeks.

Fairbanks Voters to Decide on Limits of Heating Device Regulation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fairbanks borough voters consider a ballot proposition in Tuesday’s municipal election, that if passed will stop the borough government from regulating heating devices.  It’s the latest volley in the war over air quality.

Body of Missing Norton Sound Boater Discovered

Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome

The body of 48-year old Debbie Kimoktoak was found last Friday on the beach southwest of Unalakleet. Trooper Spokesperson Beth Ipsen says a

Bering Air helicopter pilot reported spotting the body southwest of

Unalakleet. A local search effort continues today for 41-year-old David Slwooko – still missing.

Chickenpox Outbreak Hits Homer, Soldotna

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

An outbreak of chickenpox in Soldotna and Homer has state public health officials worried about the high number of local children who are not receiving vaccinations.

2013 World Championships Banned Substance List Spurns Disagreement

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The North Pole Economic Development Corporation is planning to host the International Federation of Sleddog Sports 2013 World Championships.  Twenty-four events are scheduled to take place over the course of 20 days in February and March.  But disagreement over a list of banned substances for sled dogs has put the long distance race in jeopardy.

Recovered Seal Returned To Unalaska Waters

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

When injured marine creatures are stranded on Alaska’s beaches, they’re taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for recovery. The center has rehabilitated walruses, sea birds, otters, and plenty of harbor seals. KUCB’s Alexandra Gutierrez was on hand last week when one of those seals was returned to the wild in Unalaska.

Adzers Hard at Work in Chief Shakes Tribal House

Ariel Van Cleave, KSTK – Wrangell

Carving work continues on the final beams meant for the ongoing construction of the Chief Shakes Tribal House in Wrangell. KSTK’s Ariel Van Cleave recently visited the carving shed and filed this report.

Count Basie Orchestra Mentors Anchorage Students

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

Members of a legendary Jazz Ensemble that started in the big band era have been mentoring school kids in Anchorage. Members of the Count Basie Orchestra spent time with middle and high schoolers at 18 schools across the city, including with students from West High and Romig Middle School.