Alaskan ‘Doomsday Prepper’ Who Built Remote Hideaway Found Guilty of Stealing More Than $400,000 in Coins
The three-level house Berry built on a woodsy flank of Bald Mountain doesn’t appear extravagant from the outside, but it was insured for more than $400,000 dollars.
It boasted a home gym, a hot tub and a stunning view that captured the nighttime glow of Anchorage, 40 miles to the south. A telescope and a Gatling gun on a swivel mount — loaded with a belt of bullets — looked down on the remote road to the house 10 miles north of Wasilla, said witnesses involved in the case brought by the state.
But the end of the world, at least the world Berry knew, didn’t come in a hail of bullets. It happened quite by accident in the fall of 2009, with a meaningless comment at the Wasilla car wash named Mudbusters where Berry had recently quit.
Karen Mahoy, co-owner of Mudbusters and its three Wasilla locations, asked employee Paul Montanez to pick up coins at the bank. No problem, said the 20-year-old Montanez. He knew where the bank was.
That’s because he’d been there before with Berry. Before Montanez worked at Mudbusters he dated Berry’s stepdaughter, and Berry sometimes gave him a ride after high school.
Twice, Berry stopped at the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and walked inside alone, lugging five-gallon buckets nearly full with quarters. Berry told the then-teenager he had to deposit money for Mudbusters.
But, as it turned out, Mudbusters never banked at Alaska USA.
Montanez told his dad, who told Mahoy, who had already come to suspect that Berry had been raiding the company coin vaults for years and taking home $1,000 bricks of dollar coins from the bank. Early last month, a jury in Palmer found Berry guilty of first-degree theft of more than $25,000, a Class B felony and the state’s most severe theft charge.
Witnesses at the trial said much more was stolen. A forensic accountant, who examined years of car-wash records and Berry’s bank accounts, testified the company had lost at least $414,750 between 2001 and early 2009, quarter by quarter and dollar coin by dollar coin.