‘Alaskan Bush People’: Why Were Bam Bam and Billy Brown Sentenced to a Month in Jail in 2016?

by Amy Myers

Through the seasons, it seemed just as much drama and action happened onscreen as it did off-screen for the stars of Alaskan Bush People. And while fans of the wild and innovative family might be aware of some events, they might not know that two stars received a sentence of a month in jail five years ago.

Billy Brown, the patriarch of the Alaskan Bush People family, led the majority of the “Wolf Pack’s” endeavors. From their original homestead in the bush near Hoonah, Alaska to their mountainside property in Washington, Billy kept his family close and taught their kids the value of independence and respect for nature. His children lovingly called him “Da” and thought the world of him even after his death early this year–including his oldest son and fellow culprit, Bam Bam Brown.

Unlike his Da, Bam Bam was never quite as outgoing or spotlight-ready. Perhaps the quietest and most sentimental of the bunch, Bam Bam preferred to keep to himself rather than be where the cameras were. In fact, following the father and son’s jail stint, the oldest Alaskan Bush People sibling left the show to “follow” his “heart.” He fell “head over heels” in love with a city girl, who “stirred something inside me and made my soul wake up.”

However, before his abrupt exit, the only person Bam Bam could follow was his father to court.

‘Alaskan Bush People’ Stars Committed Fraud

At first glance, you might not think that the Alaskan Bush People were capable of financial fraud. And they would agree with you. According to Billy Brown, the infringement was not intentional–just the product of bad bookkeeping.

You see, in Alaska, primary residents receive a yearly oil revenue check. So, for the time that the Browns lived on Mossman Island, they could receive this dividend. Up until two years before the show, though, the family lived in Seattle from 2009 to 2012. But Bam Bam and his father still marked their primary residency as Alaska. As a result, the two stole a total of $7,956 from the Alaskan government.

Despite pleading guilty, the Alaskan Bush People patriarch maintained that his intentions were never deceptive.

“Alaska’s dividend program has specific requirements for the length of time in the state, and the reasons for being out of Alaska,” Billy Brown explained to PEOPLE. “Because of the way we live our lives and the way we often unconventionally travel, I didn’t keep good track of our movements.”

Still, that left the family with a hefty fine and a jail sentence. Thankfully for the two men, though, the judge commuted the 30-day sentence to 40 hours of community service.

“I accept full responsibility for filing for benefits without confirming that we met the requirements,” Brown said. “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.”

The case occurred one year before Ami Brown’s cancer diagnosis and the family’s subsequent move to Washington state.