According to media reports Friday, two members of the family associated with the Discovery Channel’s “Alaskan Bush People” reality show have agreed to plead guilty to lying on the application for the yearly oil revenue check given to Alaska residents.
Billy Brown, 62, and his son Joshua Brown, 31, have agreed to repay the state for dividends they received despite failing to meet residency requirements, TMZ reports.. They have also agreed to serve two years of probation.
Most Alaska residents receive yearly payouts from the earnings off the state’s oil investment accounts. To qualify for the Permanent Fund Dividend, residents must have lived in the state for one full calendar year.
On his application to get the check, Billy Brown lied, saying he lived on the 1-mile-long Mosman Island in southeast Alaska from 2009 to 2013. In court paperwork, Billy Brown later said that he left the state in 2009 and did not return until 2012.
“By submitting falsified PFD applications for myself and my children, I stole $7,956 from the people of Alaska,” Billy Brown wrote in his statement, included with the agreement.
As part of the deal, the pair will also have to serve 40 hours each of community service, which a judge specified may not be filled as part of a reality show. Billy Brown would be responsible for repaying the state $7,956. Joshua Brown would be required to pay $1,174.
“PFD fraud is a serious matter. It’s a theft from everybody, every resident of the state of Alaska,” said Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg during a hearing to consider the deal Thursday. “I think there’s a high level of community condemnation for it.”
Billy Brown and Joshua Brown phoned into the criminal hearing from Seattle.
Last year, the father and son were charged with dozens of counts of fraud and theft along with four other family members. The plea agreement calls for charges against Solomon Brown, Gabriel Brown, Noah Brown and Amora Brown to be dismissed provided they pay $3,000 each in restitution.
The Discovery Channel series touted the family as living remote and uniquely Alaskan lives. Before its May 2014 premier, Discovery encouraged viewers to watch the “newly discovered family who was born and raised in the wild.”