23 charged in Bethel bootlegging ring

A two-year-long investigation culminated today with the charging of 23 Bethel residents, most of them cab drivers, for allegedly selling alcohol without a license.

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The State of Alaska is charging 18 cab drivers, coming from all four Bethel taxi companies, plus the owner of one company and others accused of helping to illegally sell alcohol. Friday’s arrests follow a raid of the cab companies more than a year ago by the FBI, Bethel Police and State Troopers that uncovered tens of thousands of dollars in cash and a large number of liquor bottles.

The undercover operation was conducted by the State Trooper’s Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics Team, starting in December of 2015, before Bethel had legal package liquor stores. Court documents say investigators simply took cab rides and tried to make buys.

The charges are misdemeanors, but the counts are multiple.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of people charged and to reflect that no arrests have been made. It’s also been corrected to reflect the correct number of cab companies. 

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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