Alleged whale tusk smugglers face federal charges
PORTLAND, Maine — A smuggling ring brought narwhal tusks from the Canadian Artic into Maine in a trailer with a secret compartment and then illegally sold them to American buyers, officials said.
Andrew Zarauskas, of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tenn., will be arraigned in Bangor, Maine, next week on 29 federal smuggling and money laundering charges each.
For nearly a decade, two Canadians smuggled the whale tusks into Maine and shipped them via FedEx to Zarauskas, Conrad and other unnamed American buyers, according to an indictment.
Narwhals are known as the unicorns of the sea for their spiral, ivory tusks that can grow longer than 8 feet. The tusks can sell for thousands of dollars each, but it's illegal to import them into the United States.
The court document doesn't specify how much money was involved, but it says the Canadian sellers received at least 150 payments from tusk buyers.
“The conspiracy we've alleged was over a period of 10 years, so there appears to have been enough of a market to support that length of conduct,” said Todd Mikolop, who is prosecuting the case for the environmental crimes section of the Department of Justice.
Narwhals live in Arctic waters and are harvested by Inuit hunters for their meat, skin and tusks, said Calvin Kania, president of Furcanada in British Columbia, which sells tusks to buyers who want them for display purposes or to turn into jewelry.
The tusks range from 3 feet to more than 8 feet, and typically sell for $1,000 to $7,000 each, Kania said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nurse who survived Ebola virus says Dallas hospital failed her
- Cold, snow break February records in Northeast
- Dead dog found in pickup truck in icy river
- No signs of deal on Homeland funding
- Astronauts complete extensive cable job in spacewalks
- GOP senators pledge help if court bars health care law subsidies
- Supreme Court’s health care law ruling worries 34 states
- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Jewish House Democrats’ invitation
- Weather-battered schools turn to virtual days for students
- Homeland Security panned for passing on bio-threat technology
- Gene making human brains bigger found