UPDATE: Billy and Joshua “Bam Bam” Brown are going to jail. To learn more about the recent developments with the Alaskan Bush People cast, please go here.
The ongoing Alaskan Bush People scandal proves once again that shows touted as “reality television” often turn out to be anything but.
The Associated Press, citing KTUU, reports several members of the Alaskan Bush People cast defrauded the state of $20,938 by lying their way into receiving annual oil revenue.
Every year, citizens of the state of Alaska get a small share of the money made from annual oil revenue. To qualify, one must be residing in Alaska. So then, how does the Brown family, stars on a hit series called Alaskan Bush People, end up in this sticky situation? The simple answer is that the Browns weren’t even in the state of Alaska; they responded to the charges from Seattle. If you didn’t know, that’s in the state of Washington.
— Alaskan Bush People (@AlaskanBushPPL) November 19, 2015
Yes, you read that correctly. A Discovery Channel series about a family allegedly roughing it “in the bush” involves people who apparently haven’t been citizens of the state of Alaska since 2009. According to 62-year-old family patriarch Billy Brown, the family “ventured outside” the state to make a few bucks off of a book about life in Alaska.
So no, the Alaskan Bush People don’t really live in Alaska. Alaskans, specifically those who do live in the Alaskan Bush, have claimed via the official Alaskan Bush People Facebook page that the series is a sham.
“They are portraying themselves as something that they are not. They do not live in the bush – they only go there to film scenes.”
“They have been living in Hoonah with the Discovery crew.”
“Locals are building their cabin.”
In addition to starring on a made-up Discovery Channel program, the Brown family was also accused of being scam artists.
“I am an Alaskan who has spent years actually living in the bush. I am also a writer and journalist. The Browns have scammed a multitude of vulnerable people for many years and owe tens of thousands of dollars to their victims.”
If the above is true, it could explain why the Alaskan Bush People stars had no problem claiming to be residents of Alaska from 2009 to 2013 and taking a chunk of money to which they weren’t entitled. To make up for the theft, Billy Brown and son Joshua have promised to pay back the thousands of dollars owed to Alaska.
They and their defense attorneys agreed to a plea deal that involved restitution and two years of probation. The plea deal also would have other members of the family walk away from the case without getting into trouble. The offer sounded good to the prosecution, as KTUU reports the Alaska court system is too cash-strapped to worry about throwing the book at reality TV stars who some feel — despite their dishonesty — bring a positive image to the state of Alaska. The family’s lawyers are concerned that too much light shined on the case could alert viewers to the fact that series isn’t entirely genuine, damaging the family’s brand and threatening the Browns’ livelihood.
However, the Associated Press reports a Juneau Superior Court judge ultimately rejected the plea deal.
Judge says jail is appropriate in cases of Dividend fraud. Here’s Billy Brown’s statement https://t.co/aNzsptp4Hm pic.twitter.com/l49O9HvUb5
— Kyle Hopkins (@kylehopkinsAK) November 19, 2015
Judge Philip Pallenberg wasn’t interested in letting the Alaskan Bush People cast off easy. It’s not that he wanted to be hard on them because of their celebrity status; the judge explained that he simply had misgivings about appearing too lenient for the same reason.
Said Pallenberg, “Someone living in a trailer in the Valley [who] stole $2,000 worth of merchandise from Wal-Mart, they would serve jail time.”
Ultimately, the judge felt a reasonable plea deal would have included a small amount of jail time, a few weeks behind bars in addition to financial restitution. He found the plea agreement an insufficient exercise in justice, and it means the prosecution may be forced to answer with a stiffer punishment after all. At this rate, the Alaskan Bush People aren’t likely to get off the hook, and at least one member of the family could be headed to prison.
It’s expected that the case will head back to court on December 3.
— Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) October 24, 2014
Do you think the Discovery Channel should have better clarified that the Alaskan Bush People series is fake? Should the family’s fraud problems cause the Alaskan Bush Peole series to be canceled? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
[AP Photo/Becky Bohrer; Screen Grab From Discovery YouTube Channel]