Another PFD thief?

Paul Atkins with an Arctic caribou/Facebook

Alaska state records now indicate that Kotzebue school teacher Paul Dewitt Atkins –  who was earlier this month convicted of being a non-resident hunter posing as a resident for years – filed for a Permanent Fund Dividend in 2020 and may have been illegally doing so for almost two decades.

Why Atkins wasn’t charged with PFD fraud is unknown. The state has generally taken such cases seriously. Two of the stars of the reality TV show Alaskan Bush People were sent to jail for 30 days in 2016, along with being ordered to pay the state back, after they were caught lying about their residency status to collect PFDs.

Queried on why Atkins escaped prosecution, the Alaska Department of Law Wednesday dodged the question with a spokeswoman e-mailing the response that “the Office of Special prosecution for Fish and Game does not investigate cases. We prosecute crimes investigated by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and then referred to our office. Questions regarding how the investigation was conducted are better suited for the Troopers.”

It was the Department of Law, however, which negotiated a plea deal with Atkins to get him to plead guilty to hunting charges in a Nome court, and what exactly was covered in that plea deal is unknown.

Atkins’ hunting convictions came after it was discovered he was claiming to be a resident of Oklahoma, his old home state, when purchasing hunting licenses there.

That act voided his Alaska residency for hunting purposes, and state law is very clear that such a claim also makes one ineligible for a PFD, the annual payment residents Alaskans receive as their share of the earnings from oil wealth invested in the now $79.5 billion Permanent Fund. 

Alaska regulations state that “an individual is not eligible for a dividend if, at any time from January 1 of the qualifying year through the date of application, the individual has…obtained a resident hunting, fishing, or trapping license from another state or country.”

Kenai Peninsula commercial fisherman Roland Maw lost his long coveted seat on the state Board of Fisheries and spent years fighting the state in court over his PFDs after it was discovered he was hunting under resident licenses in both Alaska and Montana, where he maintained a comfortable second home where his wife spent much of her time.

Maw was eventually convicted and ordered to reimburse the state for the illegally garnered PFDs, but he avoided jail.

Two worlds

The Atkinses, like the Maws, have property outside. Delaware County, OK, records say Paul and Susan Atkins have owned a very modest, 2,500-square-foot home in Jay, OK, since at least 2009. They appear to have bought it from Paul’s parents who live not far away.

Owning a second-home Outide is not uncommon for Alaskans with the means to do so. The winters in Alaska are long, dark and cold, and some think it is nice to have someplace to escape to at times.

The 49th state is famous for what is locally called “termination dust,” the first snow of the year on the mountains that historically sent large numbers of miners and commercial fishermen scurrying south for the winter.

Even the PFD regulations entitle Alaskans to be absent from the 49th state for just shy of half a year – 180 days to be exact –  before losing their dividend eligibility. 

There is also a long list of “allowable absences” that range from serving in the military to caring for a terminally ill family member, competing in the Olympics, serving in the Peace Corps, or serving in or taking a job working for an Alaskan in Congress.

But those, too, disappear once someone accepts a benefit from another state, be it resident tuition at a university Outside, the opportunity to vote in another state’s election, a property tax break such as the Oklahoma Homestead Exemption, or a resident hunting and/or fishing license in another state to name just a few benefits on the PFD disqualification list.

The “Paul Atkins?”

It is impossible to say for certain at this time if the Paul Atkins who appears regularly in the PFD records from 2003 on is the same Paul Atkins convicted of illegal hunting, given that the state no longer puts addresses along with names on its website.

But Paul appears under his full given name – Paul Dewitt Atkins – on the list in 2020, and his son, Elijah P. Atkins, firsts appears in the records along with a Paul and Susan Atkins in 2003.

Elijah would then have been the newborn son of Paul Dewitt and Susan Ann Atkins. The subsequent year’s filing in 2004 PFD list applications from Elijah P., Paul D. and Susan A. Atkins..

Atkins is a fairly common name, and this could all be a coincidence. A search of online databases did turn up one other Paul Atkins in Alaska, but that Atkins – Paul C. – appears to have left the state in 2004.

The Paul Atkins formerly of Kotzebue has yet to respond to a request for comment. Where is now living is unclear. And his Facebook page has gone dark.


14 replies »

  1. Maybe Paul will write an article on the importance of following the law in Alaska and what happens if you don’t 😉

  2. It’s not much of a stretch for a guy who went decades defrauding the public by wholly ignoring game laws in two states to also defraud all Alaskans by fraudulently claiming the PFD. Had Mr. Atkins simply used a small portion of the PFD over the years to pay for an Oklahoma non-resident licenses and tags he would have been money and reputation ahead. Instead of helping pay his part to fund the wildlife management resources he was taking advantage of, he pushed the burden on to other users.

    • Steve o , he didn’t wholly ignore game laws in two states. As you know via facts in these articles he may have partially ignored game laws in one state and ignored factual clarification on what license he was eligible for in his other state. He claimed residence in another state when that wasn’t factual. He was technically an Alaska resident regardless of claims on his other state paperwork. Before you assume he wholly ignored game laws in the second state you should find out if he has legal infractions on the animals he took there and if he was convicted of anything. If you don’t do that its slander and making false statements about his person unless of course he ignored all game laws as you stated .
      No where have i seen facts that back up your statement on his actions.
      At this point he’s innocent of pfd fraud until prooven by law other wise .
      The pushing the burden on to others concept is problematic in this society. I could say that because you don’t have children you are pushing all kinds of burdens on to others. If you have children and you let someone else teach them I could say you pushed the burden of education onto others. Your burden onto others is very problematic. As far as you know Paul may have been sharing his game take with others . Thus relieving burdens in other areas. Residents who have little money can purchase 5 a licensing for 5$ . Have they pushed the burden onto others? Older people get lifetime hunting privileges/ licenses for free . If they never bought a license until 65 years old then get a free one have they pushed the burden onto others? Some one who takes a high paying job in legal profession instead of becoming a teacher at mid wage could now be said to be pushing the burden of teaching children onto others. Especially if hes a buisness man and pays next to no taxes due to write offs . Your burden onto others is questionable. Millions upon millions of people never purchase licenses or tags . Have they pushed the burden onto others? Maybe. Yet its probable it balances somewhere else. A close family member of mine died in world war two liberating france . Many Americans were not there with him especially women- did they push the burden onto others?
      I would argue that we each do what we can to help society and applying your expectation of fair contribution onto others is problematic. When paul didn’t pay correct amount did money come out of your pocket? Or did it perhaps at least in part perhaps cause everyone else who gets the benefit of animals in respective states to forfeit a little money somewhere? Should people who view animals pay a share of management? Should people who never view or think about animals have to pay anything or be involved? Your concept has problems. Imo .

      • DPR,

        He did, in fact, wholly ignore game laws.

        He did, in fact, wholly ignore game laws in two states.

        He did, in fact, plead guilty to wholly ignoring game laws.

        He did, in fact, admit to claiming residency in two different states.

        No where did I say he wholly ignored ALL game laws. The ‘s’ at the end of the word ‘law’ is a dead give away that I was using the plural sense of the word, the Cambridge Dictionary defines plural as “a word or form that expresses more than one”. As usual you read things that aren’t there and get to running off on tangents that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. You really need to work on your responses to others, maybe read what you wrote before you hit the post comment button…just a thought.

        Peace out DPR.

      • Steve o- definition of wholly = completely- totally- entirely- without exception. So if you meant certain laws were not violated then don’t use the word wholly or clarify your mean with the word some. Then you would be clear and mostly accurate. Another problem with using wholly is that even the laws he’s convicted of breaking were partially in compliance as in he actually was a resident he just wrote in accurately that he was a resident elsewhere. You conflate pleading guilty with breaking the law wholly when in fact a plea deal only implies guilt but doesn’t guarantee it nor does it require a law was broken without exception/ wholly. A law only need be broken partially to be considered violated. Your use of word wholly is just not very accurate for this instance.
        Though you now clarified you meant only some so that’s adequate for transparency. Thanks for peace wishes 😉✌🏾

      • Steve o- btw i agree with you regarding a need for me to improve my writing.
        Several things make that hard . I have an archaic device that doesn’t allow me to see in full what ive written. P I T A . I don’t own a computer. I would do better on paper. Though even thats a challenge due to certain brand of dyslexia. So I apologize if my writing isn’t smooth flowing and enjoyable. That’s unlikely to improve much. Due age and non interest in computers. You the man Steve. Keep up the good work.

      • DPR,

        I’m, glad to hear that you agree Paul wholly ignored game laws and admitted as much.

      • Steve o – im sure you were being silly. As no I didn’t agree he wholly ignored game laws . He partially ignored them.

  3. Could Prosecution of state and federal laws in Alaska depend on where you live in Alaska?
    How many signals of knowing someone believes they’re above the law are necessary before enforcement looks into your activities? The odds of urban hunters picking up hunting permits in rural Alaska are hard enough without having individual rural residents game the harvest allocation system.

    • Rod , he got penalized. What makes you think enforcement was different due to where he lived? You imply hes above the law despite his penalty? You imply authorities are not looking into his activity when he’s already been convicted so clearly his actions were looked into. ( did they take the pfd potential infraction into count with the plea deal ? Unknown)
      You imply rural residents gamed the harvest allocation system – where is your proof? Do urban citizens never do similar? Do you think paul gamed the allocation system in Alaska? He was technically a rural resident so the only people he gamed as far as i can tell is people in the state he claimed false residency. Did he hunt in Alaska for a year or two on rural preference permits when he was actually not living here ?
      I thought he taught school in kotz until 2021 which makes him technically an alaska rural resident. Or did i miss something?

      • DPR,
        if he has been getting a benefit from another State by claiming residency there and at the same time claiming residency in Alaska he is clearly not entitled to the PFD for those years. When he signed his applications for the PFD he had to state he had not been getting residency benefits from another state. ( resident hunt & Fish licenses). Possibly other benefits. That signature is made under oath.
        The penalties he incurred for his illegal hunting activities would pale in comparison to what would normally occur if he was charged and convicted of 20 years of PFD fraud, which in some cases are charged as felonies.
        Something is amiss here. Either gross incompetence or a sweetheart deal in exchange for something. The latter would be real bad. Incompetence, however, seems to be a regular occurrence in the Dept of Law.

      • Ak first,
        You could be right. Gross incompetence or sweetheart deal .
        There is a third one – common sense. No humans were injured or died from his paper work missteps . Maybe the judge or district attorney had a reasonable thought and said to himself this man didn’t hurt anyone and he was genuinely living in alaska is it needed to hit him with the full book and if we try will he cause an expensive court battle that takes our time from catching dangerous criminals? Does this man deserve to take up s prison cell ? Would that be good for society? Maybe he is low risk of reoffending and a hard slap on wrist will do the trick? Maybe it wasn’t a sweetheart deal and maybe anyone would have gotten similar treatment.

Leave a Reply