Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday refused to say when she learned her fisheries adviser was guilty of violating federal fishery law, and whether she’d knowingly kept him in his policy position following his agreement to plead guilty.
Arne Fuglvog resigned his $91,600-a-year position with Alaska’s senior senator Sunday. Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage filed Fuglvog’s plea agreement in Alaska District Court.
The charging documents showed that Fuglvog signed the plea agreement April 8, though it had not been filed with the court for nearly four months.
“There were just some investigative things that were underway that needed to get done,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney for Alaska Andrea Steward in explaining the delay.
She declined to specify what those things were because the case has not yet been finally resolved.
Murkowski issued a statement earlier this week through spokesman Matthew Felling praising Fuglvog’s service both to her office and the industry and stating that he had “taken responsibility for his actions,” but provided no information about the reason for the delay.
Fuglvog, through attorney Jeff Feldman of Anchorage, declined to comment on the delay.
Murkowski would provide no details about when Fuglvog “took responsibility” to her for his past actions, though she pointed out the accusations against him stem from prior to his being hired as a member of her congressional staff.
“We are staying with the statement” and wouldn’t say anything more, Felling said.
He declined to provide a copy of the resignation, or say what form it was in.
It is also not clear from Murkowski’s limited public statement whether she knew about the investigation and/or Fuglvog’s agreement to plead guilty.
Fuglvog is a member of a prominent fishing family in Petersburg, one of Alaska’s most prominent fishing ports. For the last 10 years he has both fished and served on a variety of policy and advocacy positions related to the fishing industry.
The federal allegation against Fuglvog said that on several occasions between 2001 and 2006, Fuglvog reported catching fish in areas other than where they were actually caught.
That enabled him to sell more fish than he was allowed under his IFQ, or individual fishing quota, for certain areas.
Fuglvog’s plea agreement, however, was for only a single instance, in which he sold $100,000 worth of sablefish caught above his Western Yakutat quota, which he falsely claimed to have caught in the Gulf of Alaska where he had an unused quota.
Steward said such violations are hard to prove, and would not say how federal investigators found out what Fuglvog was doing.
“Generally these kinds of cases are hard to discover, and when they do come to light we take them very seriously,” she said.
Fuglvog’s plea agreement calls for 10 months of incarceration as well as fines, forfeiture and a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
Steward said she expects the plea agreement to go before a judge in Anchorage at a hearing on Aug. 9.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.