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Whaling commission theft

Posted: November 9, 2012 - 1:07am

ANCHORAGE — A federal judge is trying to determine how much money the former director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission stole from the commission.

Maggie Ahmaogak’s lawyer estimates the amount at $91,000. But prosecutors claim it is closer to $420,000, according to Thursday’s Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/8Wyry4 ).

Ahmaogak, 62, was director of the commission, which receives federal funds, for 17 years until she was fired in 2007. She pleaded guilty in May to two counts of theft and misapplication of funds. Her sentencing is continuing this week in federal court in Anchorage. Ahmaogak’s lawyer, Kevin Fitzgerald, argued Wednesday before U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason that some of the money Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Steward claims Ahmaogak stole actually went toward the commission’s purpose.

And while it was poorly documented, Fitzgerald said, the misapplication of funds did not benefit Ahmaogak directly in every instance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Steward said that the means by which Ahmaogak pilfered the various commission accounts, including approving her own bonuses and a retroactive pay increase she needed to buy a Hummer SUV, went beyond bad bookkeeping.

Ahmaogak, who took the stand Wednesday, admits only to improperly using $10,000 of the commission’s funds during a trip to an International Whaling Commission conference on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, not the $30,000 the government has claimed.

Ahmaogak said the $20,000 in dispute went to Alaska commission board members in the form of envelopes filled with cash to pay for food, hotel expenses and, in the case of two of them, new clothes because their luggage was lost.

But Steward wanted to know why there was no documentation of the rest of the $20,000 that disappeared. Why, she asked, had board members not mentioned the envelopes filled with cash when they were interviewed by the FBI.

“Are there any documents you can point to that substantiate any of this?” Steward asked.

“No,” Ahmaogak replied.

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