AK Beat: 4 Alaskans charged with illegally hunting Denali Park moose

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Loren Holmes photo

Four hunters charged with illegally killing Denali moose: Four Alaska hunters who allegedly ventured into Denali National Park to get their moose in the fall of 2012 are in big trouble now. According to the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Alaska, hunters Charlie W. Hart, 55, and Deric C. Hart, 33, of Anchorage, along with Wasilla resident James C. Riggs, 58, and Homer resident Michael C. Barth, 29, have been charged with a violating the Lacey Act as well as the unlawful take and unlawful possession of wildlife in a national park. A press release provided no details on where in the 4.7-million acre park and preserve the hunt took place. It says only that the "four men illegally hunted for bull moose in Denali National Park and Preserve from Sept. 3-7, 2012, and during that time illegally killed two bull moose on Denali Park property." Many Alaskans hunt around the edges of the Denali Park and in the Denali preserve, but there have been previous issues of hunters straying across the boundary lines. Perhaps the best known of them involved four-time Iditarod Sled Dog Race champion Jeff King, who was convicted of illegally shooting a moose 600 feet inside the park boundary. He argued to no avail that he thought he was outside the park. A federal attorney tried to get the musher sent to jail, but a federal magistrate settled on a fine of $4,750. In addition to the charges of illegal hunting, Riggs has more problems in his case, according to federal prosecutors. They say that when his home was searched, investigators found a firearm silencer. It is illegal to have a silencer without a permit.

Four men indicted on conspiracy to traffic heroin: Four men were indicted on conspiracy to traffic heroin on Thursday by the U.S. District Attorney’s office in two separate court cases. In the first case, Branden Lee Anastasio, 24 of Anchorage, and Ernie Benny Juarez, 34, of Stockton Calif., were charged with conspiring to traffic at least 50 grams of methamphetamine, and 100 grams or more of heroin. Both men were also charged with possessing heroin with intent to distribute. In the second case, James Gwaltney and Baretta Faatafuga, both 37 and residents of Alaska, were charged with conspiring to traffic 1 kilogram or more of heroin. They were also charged with attempting to possess the narcotics with intent to distribute the drugs. Faatafuga, a convicted felon, faces additional charges of unlawful possession of multiple firearms. All four men face a mandatory 10-year sentence for the drug charges, with the maximum sentence of life in prison. They also each face a fine of up to $10 million. Faatafuga faces an additional sentence up to 10 years for the gun charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie C. Courter declined to comment on whether the two cases were connected.

Eagle River woman to compete on "Cupcake Wars": It's a buttercream brawl, at least for Eagle River Cupcake Queen Kastle Sorensen. Sorensen, who owns and operates the local Kastle's Kreations cupcake food truck, will compete for sugar-coated glory when she appears on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars." The theme for her show is aquarium and Sorensen told the Chugiak-Eagle River Star that some seafood was incorporated into the cupcake challenges. The one thing she couldn't divulge? How far she made it. Alaskans can see for themselves when show airs Saturday, Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Alaska time on the Food Network.

Juneau thieves scoop up $3,000: In what sounds like a movie plot, two sophisticated thieves -- unusually sophisticated by Juneau, Alaska, standards -- made off with $3,000 from Foodland IGA grocery store in the middle of the night earlier this week. The two, wearing IGA clothing, showed up in the middle of the night and told the cleaning crew that they were there to stock shelves, Police Lt. Dave Campbell told KINY Radio's Action Line program. The two were let into the store, but the $3,000 was later found missing, he said. Campbell said police were following up some "pretty good leads."

Moose-eating shark beached in Newfoundland: A Greenland shark in a harbor in northeast Newfoundland nearly choked to death after biting off more moose than it could swallow. According to CBC News, the shark was stranded near an area where hunters butcher moose and leave behind scraps. A passing motorist, Derrick Chaulk, initially thought the shark was a beached whale, until he investigated and found about two feet of moose hide sticking out of the creature's jaws. He and another local man were able to dislodge the hide and get the shark back into deeper water, where it eventually recovered. "There was a few people up on the bank watching and once that shark swam out and lifted his tail, and then swam all the way out, everybody just clapped," Chaulk told CBC News. These northern sharks generally eat fish or seals, but have been known to dine on caribou and even polar bears occasionally.

Park Service picks new Kenai Fjords superintendent: A manager from BLM’s California Desert District is moving north to take over as superintendent of Kenai Fjords National Park, the national park nearest Alaska’s largest city.  Rebecca Lasell, a BLM district manager of resources, does a climate flip-flop in moving to her new post -- from the California desert to the glaciers of Kenai Fjords, which contains the massive Harding Ice Field. “Kenai Fjords is an amazing and valuable resource,” Lasell said in a press release. She starts in January, replacing Jeff Mow, who was promoted to superintendent of Glacier National Park in Montana. Kenai Fjords is a 670,000-acre park established in 1980. An estimated 200,000 people visit annually. 

Napakiak man sentenced for 2010 Bethel murder: Kyle Motgin, a 23-year old from the Kuskokwim River village of Napakiak has pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the January 2010 stabbing death of a Bethel cab driver. Motgin was sentenced to 45 years in prison for stabbing and killing 54-year-old Young Suk Chong inside her cab after Chong gave him a ride. In sentencing Motgin, Judge Dwayne McConnell noted the gruesome nature of the attack, which left Chong dead inside the back of her cab along the Kuskokwim River. “It is clear to me that she fought, she fought, she fought really hard to stay alive ... to try to stay alive, and he (Motgin) did his best to make sure she didn’t, for whatever reason,” McConnell said, according to Bethel public radio and television station KYUK.