FBI agents along with State Troopers and Bethel Police conducted searches in at least three subdivisions in Bethel Tuesday, in connection with possible illegal alcohol sales.
On Tuesday taxis formed a line, and one by one, open trunks and doors for inspection by authorities.
“Troopers and FBI, they’re raiding all these Korean cab drivers," said Atone Avio, who works in the Trailer Court neighborhood in Bethel.
Quyana cab, owed by Jung Jun, employs many Korean drivers, and is the operator of all the cabs being searched here.
Avio works right across the street from the highest concentration of law enforcement. He says he spent most of his morning watching the officers in action.
“Just seen a couple of them now, but they're at about five or six other trailers around here.”
In addition to the line of cabs, law enforcement makes their way in and out of houses in both Trailer Court and on Sixth Ave. Many cab drivers live in both areas.
Like many in Bethel, Avio has heard rumors the company has been selling booze on the black market.
“Couple people took a cab from the airport and they were saying that they were selling alcohol. I think they possibly might be selling alcohol," said Avio.
A press release by the Alaska State Troopers says the search warrants are being exercised as the result of a large-scale investigation that began in December 2015 into illegal alcohol sales by many Bethel businesses .
Just moments after authorities left, in the same neighborhood, one of the owners of Quyana cab lies on a couch at her home rubbing her eyes. She says that she’s tired.
One of the co-owners agreed to speak, but asked that her name not be used in this story.
Note: the owner speaks in heavy accent that can be difficult transcribe.
“We don’t do nothing wrong, what happened? Why they make us bad people? I don’t understand," the owner said.
She says that Tuesday morning she woke up to the sound of officers knocking on her door.
“So I just open the door, and see a shotgun or something. How many big guys come to me and [say] hands up? And then handcuffed me. And then they take me outside. And then I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what happened," Said the owner, who says authorities did not tell her why she was being handcuffed.
The owner says rumors that some of her drivers have made illegal sales, but she does not sell it herself.
“I know that somebody do that but I don’t want to talk about that one. That’s not my business you know. If I don’t do, that’s ok, I don’t care," the owner said. "I hate the Illegal people, that’s why I fire the cab driver. Just driving, just driving, no sell the alcohol. I always say that.”
When asked to clarify if she had fired an employee for selling, the owner said,“yeah…I don’t exactly remember. That’s why when people order the booze I say no, don’t sell the booze, don’t sell the booze.”
Police have not reported if or how many arrests have been made following the operation but the owner says that she knows of at least one.