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3/4/2013
Pilot charged for bootlegging

FAIRBANKS (AP) — Prosecutors say a Fairbanks pilot turned a blind eye to the illegal alcohol carried in his Cesna 206 on numerous trips to dry or damp communities in Northwestern Alaska.

"Dry" or "damp" villages are communities that have passed laws banning or restricting the sale of alcohol, where a 750-milliliter bottle can fetch up to $250. Importing more than 10 liters is a felony.

The Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit said in an affidavit that 60-year-old pilot Ken Jouppi made 10 bootlegger flights in 2010 to the communities of Ambler and Shungnak.

Jouppi and the business "clearly operate under a willful blindness that boarders (sic) on intentional conduct," Investigator Joshua Moore concluded in the affidavit. "Taking the above actions in totality shows a pattern of behavior that is increasing in nature."

The indictment was one of four related to bootlegging handed up last week.

The affidavit alleges that Jouppi made a habit of not asking his passengers questions about suspicious cargo, or even weighing it before takeoff.

Moore said Jouppi sometimes called law enforcement about suspicious cargo. In one case, he wouldn’t go into details for dispatchers and in another case provided information after it was useful, Moore said.

The investigation culminated in a Jan. 20, 2012, flight from Fairbanks to Shungnak and Keina for customer Robin Lisa Gray, 24. Authorities allege that during the trip, Jouppi learned she had packed alcohol but took her word that it was legal to bring the alcohol into the communities, despite his 11 years of experience operating in the area.

Jouppi and Gray were both indicted on a charge of bringing more than 10 liters of liquor to a community last week.