The Quyana Cab Company is charged with 18 counts of bootlegging. On Wednesday it pleaded not guilty to all of them.
Quyana is one of several Bethel taxi companies that were investigated by the Alaska State Troopers in a massive, two-year sting. While plenty of individual cab drivers were accused of bootlegging, Quyana is the only company that was charged with a crime. Its owners were not in court for Wednesday's arraignment and Heather Sia, a defense attorney with the Valcarce Law Office, entered a not guilty plea on the company's behalf.
The cab company was one of five defendants arraigned Wednesday on bootlegging charges. Sia also entered a not guilty plea on the behalf of Quyana cab driver James Dong Kim. The three other defendants do not appear to be affiliated with Quyana Cab, although two of them are cab drivers. They also didn’t show up at the hearing and were not represented by attorneys, so the court issued warrants for their arrests.
Sang Ho Kim, Christina Engebreth, and Ajeti Sejdula are all charged with selling alcohol without a license. Officers have repeatedly tried to deliver court summons to Engebreth and Sejdula, but can’t seem to find them. Sedjula’s former employer, Kusko Cab, says that he moved back to Europe almost two years ago and did not leave a forwarding address. While officers have successfully summoned Sang Ho Kim to court, he has repeatedly asked to delay his trial. The court has denied this request.
In all, 23 Bethel residents were charged with selling alcohol without a license last September following the Troopers’ investigation. The maximum sentence they face is one year in jail and a $25,000 fine. Because it is charged as a company, the maximum sentence for Quyana Cab would be a $500,000 fine. Quyana Cab's trial is tentatively scheduled for December 11.