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Maw reaches plea deal on PFD fraud

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Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO
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One of the most prominent figures in Cook Inlet fishing reached a plea deal with the state today, capping a six-year legal battle over a case of Alaska Permanent Fund dividend fraud.

Kasilof drift fisherman Roland Maw pleaded guilty in superior court today for collecting six years of PFDs while he was claiming residency in another state.

Maw, a former director and current volunteer with the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, was charged on one misdemeanor in the place of the original 12 charges brought against him. He’ll pay a $500 fine, nearly $9,582 in restitution to the state and will have a criminal conviction on his record. He will no longer be allowed to collect PFDs.

Maw’s defense attorney said Friday it's a good deal. Maw said he’s relieved the matter is settled.

“It would be nice to have this behind me and have this over so I can move on with my life and the state can move on with whatever it chooses to do," he said.

The case has taken years to work its way through the courts.

Attorneys in Montana were first to charge Maw for buying resident hunting and fishing licenses there while he was also claiming residency in Alaska. In 2015, a Montana court barred Maw from hunting and fishing in the state for a year and a half and ordered him to pay a fine.

The charges in Alaska came later. In 2016, the state accused Maw of illegally collecting PFDs between 2009 and 2014, alleging he had not been honest on his applications about his time Outside. The state indicted Maw on seven felonies and five misdemeanors.

On two occasions, those charges were dismissed and refiled. The third indictment, in early 2019, stuck.

But attorneys for Maw and the state reached a plea deal, made official today, to replace all those charges with one count of unsworn falsification in the second degree. Maw said the plea deal was presented to him as a way to resolve the case. Lisa Kelley, an attorney from the state, said the restitution represents the entirety of PFDs that were erroneously paid and the difference in prices between resident and nonresident Fish and Game licenses. 

Class A misdemeanors like this are punishable by thousands of dollars in fines and up to a year of jail time. Maw has not served jail time, nor will he have to.

Juneau Judge Amy Mead said she found the state’s penalties fit for the crime, given Maw’s lack of priors.  And she said the fact that Maw will walk away with a criminal conviction deserves a lot of weight.

“Because it is a crime of dishonesty," she said. "And I use that in the legal sense. I think the fact that you’re walking away with a conviction is very significant.”

Maw said the state knew about his travels at the time because of his role on an international anadromous fish commission. And he said the issue should have been resolved in an administrative hearing.

Maw is a high-profile and controversial figure in Alaska fishing.

He was appointed by Gov. Bill Walker to the Board of Fish in January 2015. He withdrew his name around the time officials in Montana first announced the criminal investigation, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Maw said he’s no longer a paid employee of UCIDA. But he’s still a volunteer, answering phones at the drift association’s Soldotna office as recently as Friday. He said he’s unsure if he’ll continue to be a volunteer with UCIDA going forward. 

Maw also holds a drift gillnet permit for Cook Inlet and still fishes there. He’s had a home in Kasilof since 1988.

Sabine Poux is the news director at KDLL. Originally from New York, she's lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things central peninsula but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at spoux@kdll.org.
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