Story last updated at 1:31 p.m. Thursday, June 6, 2002

Fishing permit broker pleads in theft case
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Homer News file photo
Debbie Moore  
Former boat and fishing permit broker Debbie Moore has pleaded no contest to felony theft charges stemming from the loss of more than $300,000 belonging to her clients.

Owner of Northern Enterprises Permit and Boat Brokerage, Moore was arrested in January after several of her clients complained to authorities about missing money.

Commercial fishermen who had given Moore money to buy permits said when they asked about the permits, she didn't have them. When they asked where the money was, they were told it was gone. Fishermen who had given Moore permits to sell found while Moore had sold the permits, that money was also history.

When she is sentenced on July 29, Moore faces up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Moore has already declared bankruptcy, Assistant District Attorney John Wolfe told the Anchorage Daily News.

In the case of Matt Pancratz, that loss is reportedly $158,000 <> money he told Alaska State Troopers he was due after Moore sold his 20,000 halibut quota shares.

Moore claims she lost money belonging to her clients when she was taken in by a money-laundering scam that promised to cut her in on a large fortune set to be smuggled out of Nigeria. Moore told investigators that her money was needed, the con artist told her, to bribe officials to expedite the deal. In a so-called Nigerian scam, victims are typically told that once the fortune is freed by successive and apparently increasingly large bribes, they will collect millions.

Court documents show that Moore withdrew money belonging to her clients from her company's trust account, where they typically deposited it for the purposes of buying quota shares or boats. Authorities investigating Moore found bank records showing Moore did send money out of the country, according to Wolfe.

Moore remains jailed at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center near Anchorage.

Dan Veerhusen, who gave Moore $10,000 to buy quota shares, said he's pretty much kissed the money goodbye.

"You can't squeeze blood from a turnip," said Veerhusen, who remains friends with Moore's parents. "It's not worth my time to spend a dime on a phone call at this point."

Veerhusen, who has fished commercially out of Homer for 40 years, said he's known Debbie Moore since she was a child and was hurt more by the personal betrayal than by the financial setback. He then added that others, like Pancratz, suffered a much more devastating financial hit than he did.

Heather Pancratz said her husband, who had hoped to cash in his halibut shares for quota shares in other fisheries, has hired on as a skipper for somebody else. He is currently fishing off Resurrection Bay.

Meanwhile, Pancratz's own boat, the 40-foot Nacona, sits in a local boatyard.

Despite the Moore scandal and the general economic malaise facing the fishing industry, Alaska commercial fishermen continue to use the services of boat and permit brokers.

"It hasn't changed the way people approach this business," said Glenn Caldwell, a broker with Alaska Boat and Permits Inc. of Homer. "People might be a bit more cautious. But it hasn't changed the way our customers are doing business with us. People are still buying or selling."