Owner of Nome hotel destroyed in fatal fire charged with evading $1.5M in taxes

Nome's 2017 Polaris Hotel fire
Nome’s Polaris hotel, bar and liquor store burned down in October 2017. (Courtesy John Handeland)

The owner of the Polaris, a former Nome hotel, bar and liquor store destroyed in a fatal fire five years ago, has been indicted for allegedly evading about $1.5 million in federal income taxes.

Tina H. Yi of Nome, who now lives in Anchorage, was the sole owner of the Polaris from 2007 until October 2017. A fire that month started inside a portion of the liquor store and swept through the Polaris, killing Nome resident Bette Ann Haugen.

Although an investigator with the state fire marshal’s office came to Nome at the time, the exact cause of the fire was never released to the public. KNOM Radio has submitted a public records request to the state to obtain that information.

Yi filed false personal tax returns and evaded $1.5 million in federal income taxes from 2014 to 2018, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Alaska. Yi was allegedly keeping two sets of financial accounts and records for her Polaris business. One of those books was accurate, while the other “understated the company’s income,” according to an announcement of the charges.

The indictment said that Yi provided fake records for her accountant to use to file her tax returns, starting in 2014. Allegedly, Yi failed to report more than $3.2 million in income to the IRS over the course of four years.

Yi’s initial U.S. District Court appearance took place Wednesday afternoon. If Yi is found guilty of tax evasion and filing false tax returns, she could face up to 40 years in prison.

Davis Hovey is a news reporter at KNOM - Nome.

Hovey was born and raised in Virginia. He spent most of his childhood in Greene County 20 minutes outside of Charlottesville where University of Virginia is located.

Hovis was drawn in by the opportunity to work for a radio station in a remote, unique place like Nome Alaska. Hovis went to Syracuse University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Broadcast Digital Journalism.

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