Press Release

Lure of Easy Money May Buy Hard Time for Potential Bootleggers:

First-time felony offender receives five-month sentence and fine

March 23, 2005

(Anchorage) - Shishmaref resident Robbie Ningeulook, age 38, was sentenced on Monday, March 21, 2005 to five months in jail and was fined $2500 after pleading to a felony of Liquor Importation into a Local Option Area. This was Ningeulook's first felony offense.

Ningeulook could serve an additional fifteen (15) months in jail if he violates probation over the next two years. At sentencing, Ningeulook admitted that he attempted to import four cases of whiskey and vodka, and two cases of beer into the "dry" community of Shishmaref where sale and importation of alcohol are banned.

'Bootleggers are motivated by high profit margins, " said Assistant Attorney General Andrea Russell, the prosecutor in this case. "The liquor involved here had a street value of approximately $12,000. A fifth of hard liquor sells in Shishmaref for $250."

According to the 2002 Annual Drug Report, Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, alcohol is the primary substance of abuse in Alaska and is the leading cause of violence and accidental death, especially in the state's rural areas. In fact, the report notes that for alcohol purchased in Anchorage and sold in many of Alaska's villages, there is a $15.00 return for every dollar invested.

The charges against Ningeulook dated back to December 2003 and involved a "booze run" from Shishmaref to Nome investigated by Nathan Sheets, an Alaska State Trooper primarily involved with the interdiction of bootleggers. Ningeulook used his girlfriend's snow machine to tow a sled carrying the booze. In many of Alaska's nearly 200 small, isolate communities, bootleggers make use of planes, boats and snowmachines. This fact was addressed last year in Senate Bill 170 a major crime package proposed by Governor Frank H. Murkowski.

"Intercepting and prosecuting bootleggers poses significant challenges for state law enforcement and prosecutors," said Acting Attorney General Scott Nordstrand. "One way to discourage these activities is to increase the penalties if you get caught. The Governor's crime bill strengthened the forfeiture law for vehicles involved in bootlegging. Though the changes to the law were adopted after the events took place in this case, there should be a clear message to anyone thinking of turning a quick, bootlegging buck that if you get caught you can lose your car, plane or snow mobile, you will likely pay a big fine and you're going to serve some significant jail time."

For additional information please contact Assistant Attorney General Andrea Russell, Statewide Alcohol Interdiction and Bootleg Prosecutor. She may be reached at 269-7949. Requests for copies of public record documents related to this case can be obtained by contacting Cynthia Bradford at (907) 269-6250.

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