There seems to be a vast range of stories lurking in Joe Miller's history, which really explains why he refuses to answer any more questions about it, but Alaska Dispatch has another one that's kind of complicated and quite strange about property Miller has owned for the last 14 years, but hasn't reported on his financial disclosure statements.
The deed for the property is recorded in the name of something called "The Wilmington Trust," but the woman named as the trustee says she had no idea of the exact nature of her legal connections and obligations to the property. Whether a trust actually exists is unclear....More secrets from Miller, from the very strange arrangement he made to create the apparent fiction of "The Wilmington Trust," to his failure to declare the asset in his financial disclosure forms. The story also provides a not-so-flattering portrait of Miller, not surprisingly, from the man who sold him the property.
The land was purchased in 1996. Former owner Arnie Hrncir said he gave in to a low-ball offer from Miller because he really needed to sell. Hrncir didn't say how much Miller paid, but land in the Willow area was going cheap at the time.
Miller had been working for a year or so as an attorney at an Anchorage law firm, although in 1995 he'd signed a sworn statement that he was indigent. That claim allowed him to save $50 on a state hunting and fishing license; he got a license reserved for the poor for only $5....
But Miller's name does not appear on the deed registered with the state.
On paper, the land Hrncir sold to Miller is in the name of "Bobbi Reed,'' trustee for The Wilmington Trust. Reed is an old friend of Miller's wife, Kathleen.
Reed lives in Anchorage, but tax statements are sent to her at an address in Fairbanks. The address is the post office box for the Law Offices of Joseph W. Miller.
In an Oct. 19 interview, Reed said the property is Miller's. Attorneys familiar with federal campaign disclosure laws say that if that is the case, Miller should have reported it on his Senate filings.
The Senate disclosure forms do list the 1,000 acres of Delta farmland Miller bought with a state loan in 1999 as well as his home and law office in Fairbanks. But there is no mention of the Willow land or any trusts Miller might control for his children if, in fact, a trust exists. Reed said she knows nothing about a trust even though she is named as trustee. She knows only that after the Millers bought the property, they asked her to do them a favor as a friend....
Attorneys familiar with federal campaign disclosure laws say that if the Willow property is owned by Miller, it should have been reported as an asset on his federal campaign disclosure forms.
It also would have to be reported, they said, if it is in a legally established trust for dependent children.
"He knew I wanted to sell bad," Hrncir said. "He made me one of those 'offer's good only until the sun goes down' deals.'"Miller was five months late in filing his financial disclosure forms, and it turns out they're not complete, which for our immediate purposes is the main story. It could be just a simple oversight on Miller's part, that happens. But the whole bizarre backstory of the subterfuge in concealing his ownership of this place has to make one wonder what exactly the big secret about it is, or whether it's just another grifter-type effort to hide an asset and avoid paying taxes on it, like his good buddies, the Palins did with their Mat Su property.
Hrncir didn't really want to sell for the cut-rate price being offered, but he felt that he had to. And he perfectly understood the low-ball offer; business is business.
What followed wasn't, at least not by Alaska standards. The deal was made in Willow, Hrncir said, but he met Miller in Anchorage at the Denny's on Dimond Boulevard to sign the papers to close the sale. Up to that point, Hrncir said, he'd always found the Anchorage lawyer a friendly guy. That changed the second the legal documents were inked.
Hrncir told Miller he planned to go back to Caswell to get the last of the family's stuff out of the cabin, including the generator Hrncir had said all along he planned to take with him. Miller told Hrncir that he was to stay off the property.
Accustomed to an old Alaska where a man's handshake is his word, Hrncir was taken aback, but he didn't fight.
"He schemed me out of that," Hrncir said. "He pulled out a paper and said it said (sold) 'where is, as is.' Legally he was right, (but) he went from a friend to a legal counsel in a minute.... I'll admit it," Hrncir said. "He got me."