Former Executive Director of Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 29, 2012|
ANCHORAGE—U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that an Anchorage woman was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage for two counts of intentional misapplication of funds from an organization receiving federal grant money and one count of money laundering for misapplying almost $400,000 in funds from the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC).
Maggie Ahmaogak, 62, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $393,000 in restitution.
Ahmaogak was the executive director for AEWC from 1990 until her termination in April 2007. AEWC is a non-profit organization formed in 1976 to protect Eskimo subsistence whaling of bowhead whales; to protect and enhance the Eskimo culture, traditions, and activities associated with bowhead whales and subsistence bowhead whaling; and to undertake research and education related to bowhead whales. AEWC receives funding from several sources, with the majority of its budget coming from grants issued by the United States Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Between 2004 and April 2007, the time period of the defendant’s intentional misapplication of funds, the AEWC received federal grant funds from NOAA totaling approximately $2.3 million.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward, who prosecuted the case, the defendant intentionally misapplied $393,000 of AEWC funds, including federal grant money, to purchase luxury items like a Hummer SUV, a $3,000 refrigerator, and snow machines for herself; and for gambling at Muckleshoots casino in Washington and Harrah’s casinos in St. Kitts, New Orleans, and Las Vegas.
For example, in June 2006, prior to leaving on an AEWC trip to St. Kitts, the defendant paid herself $15,000 for one pay period by creating false time sheets indicating an impossible amount of overtime worked. The defendant also wrote herself three checks on an AEWC account for $10,000 each for “incidentals” in St. Kitts. While in St. Kitts, the defendant charged over $10,000 in miscellaneous expenses on the AEWC credit card and took over $1,000 in cash advances on the AEWC credit card. This was in addition to $10,000 in AEWC funds she gave to herself and her husband for food and hotel costs. While in St. Kitts the defendant and her husband gambled with approximately $120,000 on slot machines. Upon returning from St. Kitts, she wrote a check to her husband for “loss of wages” for over $2,000, despite his receiving his regular paycheck from Shell Oil during this trip.
Ahmaogak testified at her sentencing hearing and provided false explanations for the money she intentionally misapplied. For example, the defendant told the court that a $7,406 check to cash in February 2007 was used to pay payroll taxes for AEWC, when, in fact, the check had been deposited into her personal account and used to make her house payment. The court found that the defendant was not credible in her testimony on this and other issues.
Judge Gleason noted that Ahmaogak’s violation of trust and diversion of funds from the subsistence whaling community was a significant factor in determining the defendant’s sentence.
Karen L. Loeffler, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, noted that, “Alaskan organizations, entities, and government receive large amounts of federal funds that are used to great purpose to advance many important goals and benefits for Alaskan citizens. We fully support the use of these funds but will vigilantly fight against corrupt and criminal diversion of monies away from the public uses for which they are designed.”
Kenneth J. Hines, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation for Alaska, which assisted in the investigation, commented, “This sentencing should serve as a reminder to those entrusted with taxpayer money that they take on a serious fiduciary duty. Those who disregard this duty should know that all law enforcement agencies stand united in protecting the public.”
Ms. Loeffler commends the IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General for the investigation of this case.