Gone & forgotten?

Paul Atkins and one of his muskox kills/Facebook

The Alaska Department of Law appears to have no interest in whether retired Kotzebue teacher Paul Atkins was illegally collecting permanent fund dividends (PFDs) for years, but says that if anyone else is troubled by his behavior they should contact state Department of Revenue investigators.

The Department’s Office of Special Prosecutions at the start of the month trumpeted the conviction of the 56-year-old Kotzebue hunter with a media release headlined “Outdoor Writer, Pro Staffer Ordered to Pay $15,000 in fines, lose hunting license for three years for illegal harvest of Musk Ox.”

Born and reared in Oklahoma before coming north to teach, and apparently living back in that state now, Atkins never let go of his Oklahoma roots.

“When I get back home to Oklahoma each summer,” he wrote in the October 2019 edition of the Alaska Sporting Journal, “I hear things like, ‘Are you nuts?'”

Atkins posed it then as a rhetorical question. It became far more real when it was discovered that on those trips back “home” he had been continuing to buy Oklahoma resident hunting licenses. That act voided his claim to being a resident Alaska hunter for both general and subsistence hunts in Alaska, as it would void any PFD claims he might have made in the two decades previous..

The PFD application, unlike a resident hunting license, also requires Alaska residents to swear they “intend to remain an Alaska resident indefinitely at the time you apply for a dividend,” but what one writes in a magazine, especially in these days of fake news, is not evidence he didn’t intend to stay indefinitely in Alaska.

Accepting a resident benefit in another state – such as the Montana resident hunting and fishing license that caused commercial fisherman Roland Maw to lose his long-coveted seat on the Alaska Board of Fisheries – does, however, qualify as prima facia evidence that you are not an Alaskan.

Maw ended up charged with 12 felonies, and spent six years – plus who knows how much money – wrangling with the state in court with claims, among other things, that his PFDs applications, which were filed electronically, must have been submitted by someone else typing on his computer.

He eventually dragged the case out long enough that the state agreed to drop the felonies and let him plead out to a sole misdemeanor with the condition he pay back the money he’d taken illegally from the permanent fund. The state was good enough to let him keep any interest he might have earned on those funds.

Atkins never had to face felony charges.

Another plea deal

Nearly all hunting and fishing crimes in Alaska are misdeamoners, and Atkins ended up charged with a dozen of them.

A longtime school teacher in Kotzebue and a budding outdoor writer embraced by the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) in 2013, Atkins’s history of claiming residency in two states caught up to him after someone apparently unhappy about his obtaining subsistence hunting permits ratted him out to Alaska State Troopers.

Deciding who gets to hunt and where in Alaska is complicated, but state law has basically created a three-tier system. There are hunts open to both resident and non-resident hunters. There are hunts open to only resident hunters; all of whom are considered to be hunting for subsistence.

And there are so-called Tier II subsistence hunts open to only a subset of resident hunters. Permits for those hunts are available to the few either by their trading away statewide hunting privileges to hunt in specific and limited areas and/or their scoring points that determine how a small number of permits will be awarded to hunters based on residency, dependence on the resources and other factors.

As a resident of the village of Kotzebue in the remote, Northwest corner of Alaska far from the road system and a resident of the 49th, Atkins was one of those qualified for a small number of subsistence permits to hunt muskox until someone tipped the state he was also claiming to be a resident of Oklahoma and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers began an investigation into his residency.

The investigation led to the 12 misdemeanor changes, and the seemingly inevitable Alaska plea bargain followed. Atkins eventually offered a guilty plea to a charge of failing to comply with the conditions of a hunting permit, a charge of providing the state false information and a charge of illegally transporting game.

For his plea to those three misdemeanors. Atkins was ordered to pay $38,000 in fines and restitution, but the bulk of that sentence – $23,000 – was suspended by the Nome judge who revoked Atkins’s Alaska hunting privileges for three years, put him on probation for the same amount of time, and claimed for the state “20 taxidermy items” seized during the trooper investigation.

The possibility that he might have spent years illegally filing for PFDs, the annual share of earnings from oil revenue investments distributed to Alaska residents each year, appears to have gone uninvestigated.

In answer to a question, Department of Law spokeswoman Patty Sullivan on Monday emailed that any crime Atkins might have committed in regards to PFDS was not part of the plea deal, and indicated that the Office of Special Prosecutions was not interested in pursuing a PFD investigation.

“The plea agreement involved fish and game charges,” she wrote. “Although there are similarities in terms of the elements of fraud for fish and game violations and for the PFD, they are not the same. The Alaska Department of Revenue has investigators who specialize in PFD fraud. If you believe you have evidence of such fraud, please contact them.”

An earlier query as to whether Special Prosecutions had originally checked for PFD violations, given that the PFD statute clearly states that obtaining a resident hunting or fishing license in another state voids any claim to Alaska residency, had solicited this response:

“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.”

A copy of the digital record of Atkins’s PFD filings was then sent to the Office. It does not appear to have been forwarded to troopers.

Atkins, meanwhile, appears to be back in Oklahoma. His Facebook has gone dark as have his websites – and – but the Alaska Sporting Journal was by June of this year already identifying him as “an outdoor write and author formerly of Kotzebue, Alaska and now based in Oklahoma.”

That could be a good place for him to be. PFD prosecutions of people who have moved Outside appear rare, although the Alaska Department of Law did four years ago charge 44-year-old, Alabama resident Sheila Mary Rose McMahon, widely described in the media as a former Alaskan, with “148 charges of filing false claims for PFD applications on behalf of more than 50 people.

Most of the applications were denied, but some were approved; the Associated Press reported McMahon collected about $17,000 in checks from the state before she was arrested in Alabama and extradited back to Alaska.

Once here, court records reveal that she negotiated a plea deal that saw all but one of the charges dismissed. She then entered a guilty plea to a charge of scheming to defraud the state and was fined $13,352. The fine was due by March of this year. It was not paid, and the case had since been turned over to a Columbus, Ohio, collection agency, according to those records. 




13 replies »

  1. “Reggie- what you are missing is that the 14 th says privileges in one state must apply in all states…….”
    Then subsistence hunting must be created in all other states. But, oooops! Subsistence is a federal demand, thus the feds themselves have violated the 14th Amendment, not the state of Alaska.

  2. If the plea deal didn’t involve anything regarding the PFD fraud, then it seems odd that the state wouldn’t pursue this issue. They might be treating it as a fringe and unspoken benefit to out of state teachers. While the requirements to prove residency between the game laws and the PFD aren’t altogether that different, the number of out of state teachers claiming locals only subsistence priority is likely much smaller than out of state teachers claiming the PFD. In other words, if they went after all the PFD fraudsters they might just find that having teachers in villages would become much harder than it is currently.

    If this guy violated state game laws as he has admitted to, and he claimed the PFD as has been illustrated here, it would be a dereliction of duty if the state didn’t pursue action against this admitted fraudster.

  3. The legal mumbo jumbo is really nonsense…see the Alaska bush people for example. Convicted of illegally claiming a pFD. We should pay people like that to stay in another state so we don’t have to deal with their BS

  4. “…….That could be a good place for him to be. PFD prosecutions of people who have moved Outside appear rare……”
    I’d consider it a good investment to keep possible charges and payback dangling and keeping him away.

  5. Pauls rights to subsistence hunt and collect a pfd is protected under the 14th( are citizens of the United States and the state they reside ) ( reside is not tied to legal domicile) alaska law vioated the 14 th when it decided residency could be defined differently than reside and tied privileges to residency versus reside . They went on to define residency based on domicile which isn’t the same and in the process violated the 14 th – no state shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States.. it’s clearly a privilege to hunt in America. When Paul is disallowed to subsistence hunt in kotz based on a false residency definition tied to domicile his rights were abridged. Domicile and reside are defined very differently and it’s illegal for Alaska law to conflate the two. Reside means where you are – exist- live or staying for extended period of time. Paul had clearly been in kotz an extended period of time. He was clearly raising his family in kotz. 10-20 years. He had established residency in kotz regardless of his legal domicile. Paul shouldn’t have taken a plea deal. He should have done americans a service and taken the case to the Supreme Court to get Alaskas unconstitutional segregation of rights based on resident areas struck down. Perhaps even struck down based on area of state but at minimum based on a false definition of residency. Double dipping regarding the pfd is a bit different as pfd might not be a right or American privilege it could be argued its state specific. Hunting is not state specific its a human right because its tied to subsistence- = life liberty pursuit of happiness and frankly base survival from the beginning for many. I wonder if our court system is letting pfd scofflaws and residency scofflaws off lite because the know that push come to shove at Supreme Court level the law and all related charges could be struck down. Requiring a retooled law . Do I think Paul should take a pfd if he resides elsewhere? No but penalizeing him on a subjective definition of residency based on a domicile in another state is not justice . Paul lived and resided most of his time in Alaska one of toughest towns to live in – kotz and he deserves whatever standard benefits other residents of kotz get or Alaskans in general. Anything less is not recognizing the fact he lived in Alaska for nearly 20 years and dealt with nearly the same hardships required to exist in Alaska as most anyone else. I for one would happily share whatever food or resources i had with him regardless if he gets a land tax break or hunting tag fee break which he shouldn’t have to pay in first place. ( its impossible to be secure in uour home against seizure if just missing a few tax payments causes forfeit) being required to purchase tags to hunt is sketchy in itself as that is admitting the animals are effectively the states. Which was not given technically in the constitution. Technically they should be considered the people’s and frankly each one of us is a people. Why should you pay to take something that should already be considered yours? Thats a discussion for another year 😉
    Definition of reside

    • “…….it’s clearly a privilege to hunt in America…….”
      No, it is not. There is no such thing as “privilege” in a nation of equal citizens. If you want to continue propagandizing your ideology, I suggest you pull out your thesaurus and coin up a different word to use to manipulate us with. The increasing number of citizens who are tired of their “privileged” neighbors getting over on them really don’t like that word.

      • Reggie , no intentions to propaganda. Apologies if I offended you . I was just using the language of 14 th amendment which helped to make slaves free in all states . The 14 th helped guarantee equality. . I will look up and see if there is a better word . I was just following the language of the constitution and didn’t mean to say hunting was a revokable privilege ( if thats how you view the word ) I meant right. I will research it as you suggest. Please clarify why you considered it the incorrect usage?

    • Some one else can write exact words of the 14 th . I left out some very important parts . Especially regarding making laws that abridge privileges or immunities ( obviously I could be wrong in my opinions.

      • Definition of privilege:
        “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”
        Definition of right:
        “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.”
        Beware the lawyer/journalist/politician class and their wordsmithing. Hunting is an activity that predates humanity itself. Among humans, it predates almost every other human endeavor with the exception of procreation. The manipulators who want to twist it into a privilege to be meted out like currency energize a very sensitive nerve in my brain.

      • Reggie- I agree with you . In this case privilege/ special right means Americans right to hunt equally throughout America. Technically it doesn’t include the rest of the worlds countries so it’s available to particular group. = all Americans. Thats the way I understand the 14 th amendment.
        Im on the same page as you .

    • Check the Supreme Courts decision to strike down local hire on the reasoning of the equal protection clause the 14 th amendment. It will give a rounded reasoning of why I consider Alaskas residency law to be suspect and unconstitutional. Privileges and immunities are intended to be uniform for all Americans. Not just select groups of Alaskans. ( call it rights or whatever you prefer)

      • “……In this case privilege/ special right means Americans right to hunt equally throughout America. Technically it doesn’t include the rest of the worlds countries so it’s available to particular group. = all Americans…….”
        Yes, but everybody can hunt (including non-resident Americans and foreign nationals) in accordance with regulations. Regulations are necessary even though we have the right to hunt because the resource cannot withstand the hunting pressure. It must be meted out, not through privilege, but through regulation. These regulations are supposed to follow legal parameters from state to state and nation to nation.
        Mr. Adkins violated those regulations, and the regulations regarding state residency are very uniform throughout the U.S………with the exception of federal subsistence regulations, which are unique to Alaska.
        Permanent Fund Dividends are also unique to Alaska. It is also not a privilege, but a right to all Alaskans, and it is also regulated. By clouding his true residency, Mr. Atkins has put himself in violation of numerous laws and regs.

      • Reggie- what you are missing is that the 14 th says privileges in one state must apply in all states . Alaska is in violation of the highest law in the land . The Supreme court / constitution supercede all other laws. Therefore paul is not in violation regarding the pfd nor the subsistence laws of alaska that segregate between hunters based on location. Alaska is in violation not paul regarding those items. Paul is in violation regarding inadequate trophy destruction. Your logic doesn’t work anymore than if i said slavery is legal in some parts of alaska because there are not enough workers and no one can afford to pay them in kotz. . So right now its alaska in violation regarding subsistence segregation based on a false residency definition. Hes an American he deserves equal rights period. Especially if he is factually living in the subsistence area if that was found to be legal which is a dubious designation because everyone or many people use meat / hunting as subsistence. Paul is innocent if he took it to Supreme Court. The Supreme court has ruled that unjust laws that don’t meet constitutional muster are void and are as if they didn’t exist.

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