The former longtime head of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to stealing and misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization, and her successor is scheduled to plead to similar charges Wednesday.
Before U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage, Maggie Ahmaogak, 62, admitted to two counts of theft and misapplication of funds from an organization receiving federal money and one charge of money laundering. Prosecutors agreed to drop a fourth count, of wire fraud.
Federal prosecutors earlier outlined a scheme in which she wrote herself checks, transferred money into her personal account, paid herself bonuses and advances, and used the whaling commission credit card for herself. She bought plane tickets and groceries, paid medical bills, and financed out-of-state gambling trips with a family member, the charges said. She was also accused of using the funds to buy three snowmachines and make a down payment on a Hummer. In all, the indictment handed up last year said she siphoned off about $475,000.
Ahmaogak served as the commission's executive director from 1990 to April 2007. Her husband, George Ahmaogak Sr., is a five-time North Slope Borough mayor. He lost his bid to regain the seat in an election that came just 12 days after she was indicted. He has challenged the election result.
Ahmaogak is scheduled to be sentenced before Gleason on July 23.
On Wednesday, Teresa Judkins, 52, is scheduled to appear before the judge to plead guilty to two counts of theft and misapplication of federal funds.
She began working for the commission in 1996 but quit when the headquarters were moved from Barrow to Anchorage. After Ahmaogak was fired as whaling commission executive director in 2007, Judkins took her place.
Judkins was indicted last year on charges of fraudulently using commission funds to buy herself a snowmachine, take payroll advances she never repaid and pay for travel for herself and relatives unrelated to her duties. The grand jury charged her with stealing or misspending more than $100,000.
The whaling commission is mainly funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The organization's mission is to protect subsistence bowhead hunting and to undertake research on whales.
Both women had earlier denied the accusations.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.