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Murray pleads guilty to stealing from clients

Posted: March 27, 2012 - 11:14am  |  Updated: March 28, 2012 - 11:02am

Former Cooper Landing guide Thomas Murray pleaded guilty Friday to stealing from his former clients. He also pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree unsworn falsification — for Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend fraud — and one count of false information on a fishing license.

Murray, of Cedar Hills, Utah, on Friday attended his change of plea hearing via Internet video.

He was charged in December 2011 with stealing from nearly 70 clients by failing to provide trips booked with his Cooper Landing-based guiding business, Wise Guide Outfitters.

The consolidated count of second-degree theft lists four victims identified in the case’s original charges. The victims include Mike Leever of Bayard, Neb.; Mike Primrose of Macon, Miss.; Kip Robinson of Missoula, Mont.; and Donald Maeker of Flatonia, Texas, according to a plea agreement signed on Feb. 2 by Alaska Assistant Attorney General Clint Campion. Judge Anna Moran will determine the sentence of this consolidated count.

The former guide originally was charged with one count of scheme to defraud, four counts of second-degree theft, one count of first-degree unsworn falsification and one count of false information on a fishing license.

Murray said he understood that by pleading guilty to second-degree theft he may be required to pay restitution to all four victims.

Scheme to defraud was dismissed due to the plea agreement.

Based on his guilty plea to second-degree theft, a class C felony, Murray could be sentenced up to five years in prison and fined up to $50,000. Moran will determine Murray’s sentence at 3:30 p.m. on July 2 at the Kenai Courthouse.

The unsworn falsification charge includes three years probation and $2,872.55 restitution to the State of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. He also agreed to ineligibility of future permanent fund checks.

Another three years probation and an undetermined amount of restitution were imposed by the court for the false information on a fishing license charge.

His plea follows an investigation by Alaska Wildlife Trooper Wildlife Investigator Eric Hinton that began in September 2010. Troopers report Murray sold fishing vacations on eBay for the 2010 and 2011 fishing season, but then failed to provide for some or all of these vacation packages.

Murray started selling fishing trips on eBay around 2005. He arrived in Alaska in June 2010 for the fishing season, but left two months later because he “kind of lost it,” according to court records.

When two of Murray’s clients attempted to confirm the status of their trips they received email responses with different scenarios. In a July 1, 2011 email Murray wrote he had “been in a bit of a bind over the last year,” and in a Sept. 10, 2010 email he claimed he had a brain tumor and was scheduled for surgery the next week.

Court records do not indicate the reason for Murray’s departure in 2010 or detail his mental state at the time.

Several dozen states were represented in terms of clients that paid Murray for future fishing trips, said Campion.

Murray sold trips to 29 parties with a total of nearly 70 clients who collectively paid more than $90,000 for trips that Murray failed to provide, and the investigation also revealed Murray failed to pay other businesses — to include lodges, a fishing charter operation and sport fishing guides — more than $27,000 for services that were rendered to Murray’s 2010 clients, according to Troopers.

He has lived in Utah since he abruptly left the state mid-fishing season in 2010.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

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kenai-king 03/27/12 - 01:21 pm

He should have the book thrown at him, he not only stole from his clients he disgraced the state of Alaska and stole from every Alaska resident.

radiokenai 03/27/12 - 03:43 pm

I would like to thank Thomas for making a [filtered word] of himself in the guiding industry. Perhaps his actions will cause more people to shy away from migrating up here in the summer to overfish and congest our rivers.

I haven't fished the Kenai in years due to the overburden guides. Obviously, Thomas was not a full time resident, since at the first sign of danger, he is out of here like a blank in the wind.

Way to go Thomas! Not only did Alaska rid themselves of another worthless guide operation, but he surely left a bad taste in potential pukers...

I wish more Guides would follow his lead!

bigtalkahh 03/27/12 - 06:02 pm

Dear Judge Moran: Please consider taking enough assets away from Mr. Murry to repay everyone he ripped off plus enough to cover the damage he has done to all Alaskans. Please, please, please do not give him jail time. We certainly do not need to be spending our time and money housing this creep.

ManInBlack 03/28/12 - 08:26 am
This is a perfect example....

.... of why only residents of the state of Alaska should be able to be guides in the STATE of Alaska. These "guides" from outside are a disgrace to the profession. Their behavior/actions on the river reflect an attitude of "I don't live here, why should I care what people think of me. I'll be gone in a couple months and won't have to see these folks again until next year.", coupled with con-artist action such as the article describes is reason enough. These non-resident guides take money out of our local economy, do NOT benefit the community, and are a detriment to our waters.

And the KRSMA board, it's a joke. joe connor ("professional" guide service) hires outside guides ONLY, and is the "president" (last I checked) of the board..... Talk about a conflict of interests. I'd like to see the state/borough investigate EVERY ONE of the non-resident guides to see just how many are claiming state benefits (fishing licenses, dipnetting, PFD, etc.).

rickyjulian 04/26/12 - 12:26 pm
Maninblack you couldnt be more wrong a Guide myself on the Kenai river this is so untrue. I spend roughy 120 days a season on the kenai during the busiest times for over ten years now. I seeit all and the people who have the least amont of respect for the river are not out of state guides, in state guides, or out of state private anglers/recreatoinal boaters, it is the Alaskans. Alaskan private fisherman/recreational boaters are literally trashing the river. Now this doesnt go for all of them but as a whole this is where the problems lie. Problems such as leaving massive pilesof trash at campsites on the upper river which us guides both in state and out of state are constatly cleaning up. Mishandling of fish, Killing everything they can get there hands on, and overall showing no respect to the river and the people on it. So ya Tom Murray pulled a fast one, anybody who knew him like myself saw it coming a mile away but that doesnt mean they are all bad it is a case of one bad seed, there is one in every bunch. So get your facts straighr because you havent got the slightest clue what your talking about. Last time you were on the kenai, if you have ever been there at all you probably took a dump in the trees left the toilet paper and crap there and then proceded to do what the rest of the meathead crowd does and shoot at bears for no reason kill trout and generally act like a douche bag.

spwright 04/26/12 - 05:08 pm
525 Kenai River Guides

4/26/12 To be Honest, the Kenai River has gotten so very Crowded & Competitive & Intense that many of the Local Residents No Longer Fish the Kenai River.

525 Professional Kenai River Guides & they are all after One thing & One Thing Only. MORE CLIENTS & MORE $MONEY$ The Majority of Which are From Outta State.

The Joy of Fishing the Kenai is Looooong Gone & has become "Combat Fishing"

SPW in Sloooooowdotna

AKNATUREGUY 04/26/12 - 09:31 pm
It's the RESIDENTS-Right On Rickyjulian

Yes, Rickyjulian is correct; it the ALASKAN RESIDENTS who repeadetly abuser the Kenai River and have no respect what so ever for our natural resources. Yeah, I know. If you live in Alaska and a far right winger, you are not supposed to have any respect for the natural resources. Those of us that do, are cursed at and called greenies.

It is the ALASAKAN RESIDENTS that illegaly cut down the trees and vegatation along the Kenai River banks so they can sit back on their cabin deck, drink a beer and have a smoke. They don't have a clue how much destruction they are doing to the river, the fish and the aquatic ecosystem. Unfortunately the River Center does not enforce the Kenai Peninsula setback requirement. Numerous calls to the Center produce little, if any effective action.

It is the ALASKAN RESIDENTS that catch a King and run it into the cabin without tagging the fish. Then they are back out on the river the next day catching another King.

Will the Silvers go by the way of the Kings? Yes! If you have ever been on ther Kenai River in August, just watch the ALASKAN RESIDENTS (and a few guide boats) fish for Silvers. On most boats, everyone continues fishing until the "boat" obtains their limit of Silver salmon. The regulations state there is a daily bag limit of 2 Silver Salmon per person. This does not mean that 4 or "5 joe 6 packs" can all continue fishing until they have a combine "boat limit".

The Wildlife Troopers never enforce this regulation or any other regulations on the Kenai River. I have not seen a Wildlife Trooper on the Kenai River in over 10 years.

The State Park Rangers make an attempt to enforce some regulations. But they seem to be mainly interested in saftey issues (life preservers, a whistle, etc) vs any real issues concerned with the natural resources themselves. They are rarely out there at 4 am in the morning when Joe 6 Pack goes by you wide ope with no llights on his boat or illegal lights. If they are out there, which is rare, you can spot them a "mile away" riding up and down the river.

YES, the Silvers will go by the eway of the Kings. It will just take a little longer.

ItGirl 04/26/12 - 10:46 pm
Innocent? hmmmm...

I agree that many local Alaskans mistreat the Kenai River and Alaska's resources. But you can not, in all honesty, say that the guides are models of ethics and caring of the resource. None are innocent here...

Just like a few bad locals ruin it for the bunch, I can say a few bad guides ruin it for the bunch...

I have seen guides take a load of clients out on the bank and actually instruct them on the proper technique we call the "Kenai Jerk". Thus causing everyone to pull up while they chase their salmon down the bank that they have snagged on the body.

Or better yet, the guide who pushes a local out of a fishing hole. I've had that happen on the bank and in the water.

What about the time we tried to launch our boat before 6am and the guides clogged the launch hindering those that can legally fish in the early hours.

I agree the locals lack respect for the resource. But I will also agree the the guides lack respect for anyone in the way of their quest to get the client a fish...everyone else be d@mned..You "own" the river.

But that doesn't bother me. I just head out at 4am and make sure I'm out by 6..It's a very peaceful Alaskan experience on the river. Especially on super 6:01am it's more like a rodeo ride..

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