AD Main Menu

Authorities debunk rumors of Valley child-snatching ring

Zaz Hollander
Alaska State Troopers

Authorities getting panicky calls about heavily accented booksellers targeting Valley children are debunking the rumors going around Anchorage and the Mat-Su.

There's no criminal gang of Russian-speaking people using school-supply sales as a ruse to steal children from their homes, they said.

Alaska State Troopers said the real story is that one or two people from Estonia -- a former republic of the Soviet Union on the Baltic Sea -- are selling educational materials door to door with enough information about the children inside to make parents uncomfortable. They started in Fairbanks and are now working in the Valley.

"They would show up at somebody's house, have information on the number of kids, their names, the schools they go to," said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

Apparently the salesmen got the sensitive information from other neighbors as they made their rounds, Peters said.

"We have not found any evidence of a child-snatching ring," she said. "We don't want people to become afraid and attack somebody ... because they were overzealous in their fears for their family."

The rumors started this month. Posters appeared warning about strange men showing up at homes with detailed information about the children inside.

"There seems to be Russian Mobsters working a child snatch ring in Alaska," one poster states. "Report ANYONE asking about your children or other children in the area."

Facebook pages filled with comments. Emails and phone calls started going out. Worried parents called police and school district offices.

A few terrified people called emergency dispatchers in tears after seeing the poster, Peters said. Palmer police got a few calls. They directed callers to Snopes.com, the self-described "definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation."

Palmer received no reports of "anything out of the ordinary," Palmer police Cmdr. Lance Ketterling said. "Maybe pushy salespeople, but nothing that people were worried about their kids being abducted."

The Estonian book peddlers have a business license, Peters said. They have also been working on the Kenai Peninsula.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com.

or 257-4317.


By ZAZ HOLLANDER
zhollander@adn.com