The Alaskan Bush People have paid up just weeks before a court-ordered deadline. Back in February, a judge ordered Billy and Joshua “Bam Bam” Brown to pay $12,000 in fines. They had until January 11 to pay, and reports recently emerged that they did so on December 17. The fines are in connection with charges of fraud that were filed against the Browns back in 2014.
Back in October of 2014, news first broke that six members of the Alaskan Bush People family had been charged by a Juneau grand jury with 60 counts of first-degree unsworn falsification and first- and second-degree theft. The Alaskan Dispatch News reported that 24 of those counts were against the family patriarch, Billy Brown. The remaining 48 charges were spread among five other family members – mother Ami and sons Joshua (“Bam”), Solomon (“Bear”), Gabe, and Noah.
The total dividends that were fraudulently claimed by the Alaskan Bush People family was about $27,000. Billy received $12,000 of that according to Radar Online. The other $15,000 was split among the other four family members in the case. An out-of-state fraud tip triggered the investigation by the Alaska Department of Revenue.
The charges put a spotlight on rumors that the Alaskan Bush People show, despite its classification as a reality show, doesn’t accurately portray the life of the Browns. Among those rumors was one that said that they don’t actually live in the bush. The charges associated with the fraud case gave some credibility to these rumors because the Browns were specifically charged with misrepresenting their Alaskan residency on applications for money from the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) from 2010 to 2013. (In the course of the investigation, the dates were changed to 2009 to 2012.)
In order to qualify to receive dividends, individuals must live in the state for a full calendar year (January 1 to December 31). In November 2015, Alaskan Bush People father Billy Brown signed a sworn affidavit in which he stated that he left Alaska in October 2009 and didn’t return until August 2012. During that time, the family lived in Colorado and Texas.
In January of 2016, a plea agreement was made. Billy and Joshua were sentenced to 30 days in jail. They each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of second-degree unsworn falsification. Billy was ordered to pay back nearly $8,000 of dividends plus a $10,000 fine. Joshua had to pay back almost $1,200 of dividends plus a fine of $2,000. Both men also were ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. They can never apply for dividends again. Charges against the other Browns were dropped. Billy and Joshua ended up serving their 30 days on ankle monitors instead of in jail.
The judge in the case gave the two until January 11 of 2017 to pay their combined total of $12,000 in fines. Radar Online reports that they finally did so on December 17, just under a month before the deadline. This finally puts this Alaskan Bush People issue behind them, at least from a legal perspective. There have been numerous reports by locals that they actually live mostly in nearby Hoonah, not in Browntown, encouraging talk among many people that the show is fake.
The Browns had a difficult year in 2016. Some of their struggles were acknowledged on Alaskan Bush People. Billy had health issues that required the family to go to Seattle so he could receive treatment. Eldest son Matt Brown acknowledged a struggle with alcohol on the show and was seen telling his family that he was going to rehab for help. These two chapters in the family’s life also seem to be in a better place now.
The new season of Alaskan Bush People begins on January 4 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.
[Featured Image by Discovery]