State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

Police check underage tobacco sales

JUNEAU - Police have city and state backing to investigate and enforce tobacco violations by vendors, according to a recent press release. The city recently approved a $22,000 contract with the state to fund police tobacco enforcement investigations.

Under the program police can set up controlled-buy operations to see if retailers will sell tobacco to anyone under 19. The program is aimed at reducing access to tobacco by minors and is sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Services' Division of Public Health.

Capt. Tom Porter said last fall police found one out of three vendors selling tobacco to people under 19 in Juneau.

Penalties for selling tobacco to youths, according to the press release, include a $300 fine for the person who made the sale and a suspension of the vendor's license to sell tobacco.

The contract allows funds for investigations until 2002 but will most likely be renewed until 2004, said State Tobacco Enforcement Coordinator Ed Sasser.

Duck season begins Saturday

JUNEAU - Duck hunting season will open Saturday with many bangs on the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.

Shooting hours on the refuge start 30 minutes before sunrise, at 5:28 a.m. Saturday, and go until sunset, 7:57 p.m. Duck hunting season continues through Dec. 16.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is putting up signs at the 13 public access points to remind hunters to practice safe firearm use, avoid shooting toward roads or residential areas and respect other refuge users.

The signs also have maps showing all access points to the wetlands, including the Mendenhall Peninsula, the airport dike, Sunny Point, the refuge viewing platform on Egan Drive, and the Switzer Creek outflow.

Duck hunting regulations are available at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, sporting goods stores and other vendors.

Prison term set for importer of nude dancers

ANCHORAGE - A man who escorted a troupe of Russian dancers to Anchorage to perform in a strip club received a stiff sentence from a federal judge.

U.S. District Court Judge James Fitzgerald sentenced Victor Virchenko to 212 years in prison Tuesday for visa fraud and bringing two 16-year-olds across state lines for immoral purposes.

Fitzgerald went beyond the 27-month sentence suggested by prosecutors and a defense attorney, and called Virchenko's conduct "despicable and inexcusable." Virchenko, 46, will be deported after completing his sentence.

Immigration officials arrested his dance group in January as they performed at the Crazy Horse, a local strip club. He is one of three men charged in the case. Prior to sentencing, the judge heard from the mothers of the two underage girls. They said their daughters believed they would perform at cultural festivals and never expected to dance naked. Both mothers said their daughters are no longer welcome in their village because they were portrayed in newspapers as prostitutes who knew they would be expected to perform nude.

Virchenko, Chugiak resident Tony Kennard and Pavel Agafonov of Marietta, Ga., originally were charged with 23 counts, including crimes under a new anti-exploitation law aimed at international traffickers in women and children. In June, the three men agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges, with the understanding that more serious charges including kidnapping, forced labor and witness intimidation would be dropped.

Doctor sentenced in sex-for-drugs case

FAIRBANKS - Former Tanana Valley Clinic doctor Stephen Grandstaff, convicted of trading prescription drugs for sexual favors, was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced Grandstaff to 34 years, suspending 14. He also sentenced Grandstaff to 10 years probation.

Grandstaff, who was convicted after a three-week trial in May, faced a theoretical maximum of 875 years in prison.

Grandstaff, 39, was indicted last year on 105 felony counts, the result of charges that he singled out vulnerable Medicaid patients, got them addicted to prescription narcotics and began exchanging the drugs for sexual favors. A jury convicted him of 73 counts, including 32 counts of second-degree and 36 counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, three counts of second-degree theft and one count each of first- and second-degree sexual assault.

The charges related to four women, three of whom testified at the trial and a sentencing hearing Tuesday. The fourth died of an unrelated drug overdose in 1999, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Several of the women who testified Tuesday said Grandstaffs actions had shaken their faith in the medical profession and said the crimes had had disastrous effects on their mental states.

Every day I cry, sometimes all day, said one victim. I have a scared, fearful feeling inside me that makes it almost impossible to enjoy life.

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