By Ben Matheson – April 27, 2015
BETHEL – Citizens in Bethel are weighing a decision on a proposal for the for the first liquor store in decades. In the shadow of the debate is a powerful and elaborate bootlegging economy across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
A small team of federal law enforcement agents with the United States Postal Inspection Service is working to keep alcohol out of the mail. It’s one of the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, a group with a unique mission that chases after each suspicious package. KYUK’s Ben Matheson has more in the third installment profiling efforts to stem the flow of illegal alcohol to local option communities in the YK Delta.
Transporting alcohol by boat, truck, or snow machine is the choice of most bootleggers trying to import alcohol into dry villages. But for people who live in more distant communities, or in times when river conditions make travel impossible, the United States Postal Service can be a tempting way for many to ship illegal cargo directly to the post office box of the recipient. It doesn’t always arrive as planned.
Anchorage-based Postal Inspector Alan Damron spends his waking hours trying to stop bottles from reaching places where they will do harm. It’s completely illegal to send alcohol through US mail.
“Sometimes it’s really obvious when something is, for instance, leaking whiskey or vodka and you can smell it a mile away. Those are the easy ones to find,” said Damron.