Stars of the Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Bush People have been pulled into court for attempting to defraud the state of Alaska, according to court filings and statements made by the Brown family. Billy Brown, 63-years-old, spoke for the entire family, asking that he alone face charges, stemming from allegations that his family benefited from state residency payouts, while the Brown family was not actually meeting Alaskan residency requirements.
Alaskan Bush People Duped By A Family Of Con Artists?
It seems that the Brown family haven’t just scammed the people of Alaska, but The Discovery Channel and their viewers as well. By claiming residency payouts from the state of Alaska and thereby entrenching themselves into a community, Billy Brown’s family has not been nearly as removed from society as Alaskan Bush People would have viewers believe.
In part, the description from The Discovery Channel’s series reads that each season they will choose a family “so far removed from civilization that they often go six to nine months of the year without seeing an outsider.”
It certainly sounds as though Billy and his 31-year-old son, Joshua Brown, have seen more than a few outsiders. At the very least, the two leading men of the Brown family have violated these conditions for participation in Alaskan Bush People, as well as actively attempting to deceive Alaska.
Billy Brown Blames Fraud Charges On Poor Record Keeping
Initially, the Alaskan government charged Billy Brown with 24 counts, many of which were felony charges, related to the family’s fraudulent activities. Joshua Brown was also charged with six unspecified counts and other family members faced charges, as well, but a plea agreement changed much of that. A plea deal resulted in most of the charges having been dropped and Billy Brown pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of second degree unsworn falsification.
As a result of the agreement, both Billy and Joshua will serve 30 days in jail. Upon their release, the Brown family will also be required to pay fines and thousands of dollars in restitution.
From 2009 to 2012, the Brown family had claimed that they met permanent residency requirements when they did not. As a result, the family illegally received payouts from Alaska’s Permanent Fund, totalling more than $20,000. The fund, which is derived from the state’s oil revenue, requires that families must live in Alaska year round to claim permanent residency. The fund allows for absences of up to 180 days, with longer absences permitted for extenuating circumstances.
“Because of the way we live our lives and the way we often unconventionally travel, I didn’t keep good track of our movements,” Brown said in a statement to the court. “I accept full responsibility for filing for benefits without confirming that we met the requirements.”
The Brown family left Alaska in 2009 and didn’t return until 2012.
“We are committed to living in Alaska for the long term and we respect the state’s rules,” said the 64-year-old Brown in an apology to the judge on Monday.”I thought it best to settle to put this behind us.”
The Brown family aren’t survivalists living off the land and away from society, as they have presented themselves to Alaskan Bush People producers or to viewers of the series. Instead, they’re opportunists, leaching off of whatever community will open its arms to them. Thirty days in county lock up is far too lenient for a family that had successfully scammed the Alaskan people for more than five years. In fact, if The Discovery Channel hadn’t come along, they certainly would have found a new scam to perpetuate.
Perhaps The Discovery Channel should cut the Browns loose and find a more deserving, honest family to promote.
[Image via The Discovery Channel]