Alaska State Troopers charged Richard Mashburn, 52, and wife, Lydia Mashburn, 51, both of Selawik, with two felony counts each of manufacturing homebrew and two more felony counts each of intent to sell without a license.
Residents in the village of 830 had voiced suspicions about the Mashburns to troopers at community meetings called this year to address the need for a new village public safety officer, said Sgt. Karl Main in the Troopers’ Kotzebue post.
Richard Mashburn served as Selawik’s village public safety officer for around a decade until last year, when the Native nonprofit that ran the region’s VPSO program at the time terminated him for “performance-related issues,” Main said.
The nonprofit, the Kodiak Area Native Association, didn’t provide more information about the termination, Main said.
At the Selawik meetings, residents said drunkenness in the village was on the rise, especially among young people. Some pointed out that much of the activity seemed centered around the Mashburn house, according to Main.
On Nov. 5, Kotzebue investigators with Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement flew to the village and served a search warrant on the house. They found several black trash bags filled with fermenting homebrew. When they returned to arrest the couple a few days later, they found more, trooper said.
Troopers seized 19.5 gallons of the booze. They also took ingredients that were presumably being used to make it — 365 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of yeast and 19 cans of fruit.
Trae Bower, an investigator in the region for three years, said the find was sizable.
“This is one of the larger amounts of homebrew ever found in one residence at one time,” he said.
He didn’t know its street value. As for its alcohol content, homebrew is generally two to three times more potent than beer, he said.
Selling the stuff can be very lucrative in villages, with peddlers able to earn more than 10 times their investment, Main said.
“You can spend $30 to $50 on ingredients and make $500,” he said.
Main praised Selawik residents for notifying Troopers about the couple, and complimented investigators who had worked with community members in the case.
“A lot of this was the result of the community standing up and saying enough’s enough. They won’t wait until someone dies or gets hurt because of serious alcohol consumption,” he said.
“It’s a great example of what can be accomplished if we all work together.”