ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska State Troopers and Palmer police have received no recent reports of abducted Mat-Su Valley children, despite posted flyers claiming Russian mobsters are operating a “child snatch ring” in the state.
One of the flyers, seen in a photo sent to Channel 2 late Tuesday by Nate Huckabay, calls for people to report “ANYONE asking about your children or other children in the area.” An unidentified person is quoted as saying a man visited a home “yesterday morning,” claiming he had an appointment to interview children there.
“He had a strong Russian accent and was a little hard to understand,” the flyer read. “My husband said his name badge was from Matsu Health Services. So, he called them and they didn’t know anything about it. He called the police and they said they had already had numerous similar complaints.”
The flyer goes on to claim that a teacher at the school attended by the author’s son said similar events were taking place in Fairbanks and the Lower 48. It lists a phone number for troopers, as well as naming the Mat-Su Borough Neighborhood Watch Program.
Mat-Su Health Services’ chief operating officer, Susan Mason-Bouterse, says that while the firm hasn’t received any other accounts matching the one mentioned in the flyer, it has posted a warning that any such people aren't affiliated with it on its website.
“We’ve just gotten the one call,” Mason-Bouterse said.
While a call to the Wasilla Police Department wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday morning, Palmer Police Department Cmdr. Lance Ketterling says no children have been called in as abducted.
“We haven’t had any reports of it in Palmer,” Ketterling said.
Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters says that while troopers have received calls about the flyers, there aren’t any apparent links to Valley authorities. No actual abductions have been reported to dispatchers.
“We haven’t had anybody call and complain that their child was kidnapped,” Peters said.
Peters says the flyers follow questions raised by Valley residents about traveling booksellers, some of whom are reportedly men from Estonia. The salesmen are said to ask questions about neighborhoods they visit as part of an effort to fit in, which Peters says residents may find off-putting but doesn’t constitute a criminal offense.
“It’s not illegal to have an accent,” Peters said.
Ketterling says people can get soliciting licenses in Palmer, but there are no reports of any untoward behavior by solicitors on the scale alleged in the flyer.
“It’s a very frightening thing -- if it’s actually happening, which we haven’t been able to determine that it is,” Ketterling said.