A former member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries facing multiple felony charges of lying about his Alaska residency to collect Permanent Fund Dividends is suggesting he might have fallen victim to an virtual imposter.
The claim comes in a 19-page brief filed for Roland Maw of Kasilof in which his attorney seeks to quash the Maw indictments. Attorney Nicholas Polasky of Juneau argues that a grand jury indicted Maw without any evidence that Maw was the man actually sitting at a keyboard making online reservations to travel out-of-state and purchase resident hunting and fishing licenses in Montana.
“Mr. Maw does not necessarily assert that he is not the person who made the statements or engaged in the conduct that is represented in every single exhibit,” Polasky wrote. “However, Mr Maw does not agree that he is the person who made the statements or engaged in the conduct in some of the exhibits.”
For that reason, Polasky wants most of the exhibits in the Maw case tossed and the indictment along with them.
His request does reveal for the first time the extensive file the state has put together on Maw, the one-time director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association. UCIDA is the most powerful commercial fishing organization in Cook Inlet.
Set up as a profit-making lobby to represent the interests of 570 holders of drift-net fishing permits, it has for years dominated decisions on the management of the salmon that return to the waterway at the doorstep of Alaska’s largest city.
Maw was in recent years both the executive director and inspirational leader of the organization. His quest for more power eventually led him to seek a seat on the Alaska Board of Fisheries, the entity that dictates management of Alaska fisheries, and it was there he ran into trouble.
State records indicate Maw was for decades a resident of either Montana or Alberta, Canada, who made off-and-on claims to Alaska residency. His residency issues were first uncovered by the Alaska Dispatch News, but never reported there.
(Full disclosure: The author was the reporter who investigated Maw’s residency.)
Why the newspaper chose to cover up a story about a member of the Fish Board committing potentially felonious acts has never been explained. But Maw is, or was, a friend of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who is a friend of Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff.
And it is known Rogoff met privately with ADN attorney John McKay, then ADN vice-president Tony Hopfinger, and managing editor David Hulen to discuss Maw coverage after the newspaper ran a story about Maw’s bogus claim to have discovered an endangered species.
What was decided in that meeting is unknown. Hopfinger, one of the founders of AlaskaDispatch.com, has since left the newspaper and is suing Rogoff in an effort to recover the funds she promised him for sale of his company. Hulen will not discuss Maw.
Subsequent to the meeting with Rogoff, it was discovered that Maw appeared to be obtaining resident hunting and fishing license in both Alaska and Montana. That is illegal in both states. One is legally required to be a resident of one or the other.
Obtaining a resident hunting or fishing license in another state also disqualifies one from receiving a PFD, a stipulation clearly stated in the PFD regulations.
The Alaska State Troopers learned of Maw’s Montana activities when the Dispatch asked for help in confirming that Maw was indeed claiming Montana residency. The day that was confirmed to be true, Maw resigned from the Fish Board.
The ADN then reported he had withdrawn because of issues related to “Kenai River fish wars.” ADN editor Richard Mauer blocked publication of information about Maw’s residency problems and directed reporter Pat Forgey to instead ask Maw about “rumors” of residency issues.
“Rumors about residency issues, denied by Maw, could have further eroded his support,” Forgey reported in a story in which Maw did admit to obtaining PFDs and owning a home in Montana. He said the house in the southwest part of that state was for his wife who “for health reasons”couldn’t live on the Kenai Peninsula.
Three days later in an 14-paragraph story, ADN reporter Nat Herz revealed Maw was in trouble for claiming to be a resident of Montana while also claiming to be a resident of Alaska. The story said Montana had opened a criminal investigation into Maw’s residency, but made no mention of the potentially bigger problem of PFD fraud Maw faced in Alaska.
It was left to the Peninsula Clarion, Maw’s hometown newspaper, to later report that the commercial fisherman and former Alberta college professor could be facing more than misdemeanor charges involving false claims of residency on hunting and fishing licenses.
“According to public records, Maw has applied for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, or PFD, every year since 2002. Between 2002 and 2014, the PFD has paid out $16,665.88 to individuals who received a dividend each year,” reporter DJ Summers wrote.
Maw was convicted of residency violations in Montana in May 2015. He was fined $7,245 and lost his hunting and fishing privileges for 18 months in both Montana and Alaska. He then disappeared from the news.
Eight months later, however, he was charged with 12 felonies related to PFD fraud in Alaska. Some wondered why it had taken the state so long to file charges on what at first seemed a simple case built around the claim of hunting and fishing residency in two states.
Maw’s latest court filings shed light on what was going on over the course of those eight months.
In that time, the state of Alaska put together a 481-page dossier documenting not only the “variety of Montana resident fish and game licenses (obtained) between 2008 and 2014,” but Maw’s extensive out-of-state travels by air and by road.
Maw, according to the state, lied when he said on his PFD application that he hadn’t been gone from Alaska for more than 90 days in the years from 2008 to 2014.
One hundred and fifty pages of ticketing information from Alaska Airlines show the “trips alleged to have been taken by Mr. Maw,” his motion to quash says.
His attorney is trying to get those reports dismissed because they’re not “public records” or public reports. He also questions the 64 pages of information from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, arguing those documents are “closer to qualifying as public records or reports than any of the other exhibits,” but look more like “factual findings from a special investigation.”
But at the heart of the motion is the argument that online applications for anything could be filed by anyone. A win by Maw on that point could affect not only his case but possibly many others in a world where almost everything is now done online.
“There was no evidence presented to support the belief that any of the statements or conduct was actually Mr. Maw,” the motion states. “Web applications are only relevant if they are statements made by Mr. Maw.
“Likewise…(Montana Fish, Wildilfe & Parks) is only admissible if it was Mr. Maw who made the application for the licenses.”
The state, the motion contends, failed to put Maw in a chair typing on his keyboard.
“…There was nothing in the grand jury to show that it was Mr. Maw, as opposed to some other person, who made any of the statements or engaged in any of the conduct,” Polasky wrote.
Citing secret grand jury transcripts, Polasky noted this very issue was raised by a grand juror.
A juror, he wrote, asked if there could have been someone other than Maw “sitting in the chair clicking the mouse,” Polasky wrote. When asked about the possibility, state PFD investigator Shawn Stendevad tried to make light of the question, replying that “the NSA hasn’t been willing to share that.”
NSA is the acronym for the National Security Agency which has been linked to wide-spread monitoring of domestic communications. Lacking direct evidence that Maw was clicking the mouse, the state argued that there is no evidence to indicate anyone else was filing applications on Maw’s behave, and there is no motive for anyone else to do so.
Polasky challenges that view.
“…The lack of evidence is not evidence,” he wrote, “and the lack of evidence that it was not Mr. Maw is insufficient to meet the Rule 104(c) requirement that government must introduce evidence that it was Mr. Maw.”
A number of defense attorneys contacted for this story were of the opinion a judge would probably be inclined to let a jury decide whether a lack of evidence is in and of itself evidence. But no one can predict what a judge might rule.
A win on the motion would be a major victory for Maw, who has tried to stay politically active in Alaska fishery issues despite the charges hanging over his head. Just prior to his January indictment, he was active with a group of commercial fishermen lobbying the Fish Board to hold its winter 2017 Cook Inlet meeting in Kenai instead of Anchorage.
A ruling on his motion is expected soon. The case is tentatively scheduled for trial in mid-November.