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Kivalina cousins arrested in PFD cash heist from village store

Last week, two teenagers in the Northwest Alaska community of Kivalina allegedly stole $189,000 in cash and several thousand more in other items from the village store, Alaska State Troopers reported Monday. An unusually large stockpile of $20 and $100 bills had been stocked up in preparation for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend disbursement, which begins this week, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The prowlers apparently used a pry-bar to break into the store; a state trooper later told the ADN that the safe containing the cash may have been unlocked. Troopers learned of the burglary about 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, and chartered a flight to the remote village in order to investigate.

Once troopers closed the store to investigate, "the whole community was ready to give" up suspects Brandon and Robert Swan, both of Kivalina.

Multiple tips led to arrests of the two cousins, 18-year-old Brandon and 19-year-old Robert, who led troopers to $172,000 in cash and stolen items valued at some $3,000. Damage to locks and doors totaled another $3,000. About $17,000 in cash is still missing, according to the Daily News.

The men were transported to the Kotzebue regional jail, where they are awaiting arraignment on charges of burglary, criminal mischief and tampering with evidence.

Kivalina has been through a lot recently; heavy rains in the beginning of August caused disastrous flooding that washed out a pipe feeding the village’s water supply. Unable to fill up the water tanks that provide the community with 1.2 million gallons of water during the winter months, and facing a school without running water, the village canceled school for nearly a month. It wasn’t until early last week that the school reopened and the community neared repair of its water supply.