Spending Money Like a Drunken Sailor

What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
Early in the morning?

“What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor,” 19th Century Sea Chanty

The striking thing about Mark Avery’s stealing and spending binge was the incredible rate at which he spent the money he stole. At the risk of defaming intoxicated seamen, he spent May Smith’s money like a drunken sailor. He burned through $52 million in trust assets, above and beyond the $600,000 a year he was paid to be a trustee.

What’s a suitable punishment for someone who steals money from a helpless old lady?

Chuck him in the long boat till he’s sober.
Put him in the long-boat and make him bail her.
Put him in the scuppers with a hose-pipe on him.
Tie him to the taffrail when she’s yardarm under.
Heave him by the leg in a runnin’ bowline.
Scrape the hair off his chest with a hoop-iron razor.
Give ‘im a dose of salt and water.
Give ‘im a taste of the bosun’s rope-end.

Or some of WC’s personal favorites:

Shave his belly with a rusty razor.
Put him in the bilge and make him drink it.

What’s even more stunning than the theft itself is how quickly it was all gone. Security Aviation, the company Avery funded with the stolen money, is long since bankrupt. The RVs, snowmachines, boats and a yacht, the fleet of L-39 Czech jets and two expensive World War II vintage planes are all gone.

And Avery himself never repaid a dime of the $52 million he stole. The Security Aviation bankruptcy and Avery’s personal bankruptcy netted the May Smith Trust about $8 million. When the bankruptcy trustee pays dividends it’s not the perp doing the repayment.

Avery is a former Anchorage and State prosecutor, a man charged with enforcing right and wrong. What’s a suitable punishment?1

Judge Beistline will sentence Mark Avery on May 17. What’s the right punishment for a prosecutor who flaunted the law? A thief who accepted – well, inherited –  a very generous salary to be a trustee and utterly betrayed his trust?

How do you punish that? What do you do with a drunken sailor?


  1. He’s already been disbarred in California and Alaska.