Two stars from the Discovery show Alaskan Bush People may not have exactly lived up to their name.
According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the family’s patriarch, 63-year-old Billy Brown, and his son, 31-year-old Joshua Brown, were both sentenced to 30 days in jail for Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) fraud.
The PFD program is a dividend paid to Alaska residents that have lived within the state for a full calendar year and intend to remain in Alaska indefinitely. The father and son admitted that they left the state in 2009 and did not return until 2012, although they still received PFD payments during that time. The Juneau Empire reported that Joshua Brown also applied for PFD checks for his three young children during that time with falsified information.
In their defense, the Browns said their busy lives and frequent travel have made it hard to keep track of their residency. Ultimately, Billy Brown apologized in court on Monday, where he and his son pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of second-degree unsworn falsification and promised to repay already received dividends.
“Your honor, I just want to say that… I do truly apologize for all of this, and not only for myself, but for, you know, the time and trouble I’ve taken from you and all the people involved in this,” Billy Brown said. “I truly learned a lot about this, and I think truly that you will never see me in any judicial system whatsoever as long as I live.”
In a statement to Fox News, Brown added that the family is planning to stay in Alaska for good.
“Because of the way we live our lives and the way we often unconventionally travel, I didn’t keep good track of our movements. I accept full responsibility for filing for benefits without confirming that we met the requirements. We are committed to living in Alaska for the long term and we respect the state’s rules. I thought it best to settle to put this behind us,” Billy Brown said.
Attorneys for the Brown family did not disclose where the family was living between the years of 2009 and 2012, but an independent investigator testified that the PDF applications were filed from internet addresses in Texas, where the family is believed to have lived in 2011, and later from Arkansas. Billy Brown and his son Joshua participated in the hearing on Monday by phone from California.
The family’s movements may come as a shock to fans of the show, which boldly stated that the Browns were “so far removed from civilization that they often go six to nine months of the year without seeing an outsider.” Discovery described Alaskan Bush People as a show about a family living deep in the Alaskan wilderness and living off the land.
You can see a snippet of the show below:
At the beginning of the first season, Billy Brown, his wife Ami and their seven grown children were struggling to find a place to live in the Copper River Valley. By the second season, the family had moved to nearby Ketchikan. Family attorneys said that the filming was moved to a more urban location so that Billy Brown could receive medical treatment.
Discovery told Fox News that the show will not be canceled, and that a third season is in the works.
The family now reportedly lives outside Hoonah, Alaska.