Tags: narwhal | smuggler | gets | prison

Narwhal Smuggler Gets Prison for Trafficking in Whale's Tusks

By    |   Tuesday, 13 Jan 2015 04:59 AM

For illegally trafficking in the spear-like tusks of the narwhal, a protected species of arctic whale, a New Jersey man was sentenced Monday to two years and nine months in prison.

Andrew Zarauskas, 61, of Union, was found guilty of conspiracy, money laundering and smuggling by a federal jury in Bangor, Maine, last February after a multi-year, two-country undercover investigation that spanned from Alaska to New Brunswick, Canada, according to Reuters.

Zarauskas will also pay a $7,500 fine and face a three-year supervised release, court officials said.

Federal investigators said Zarauskas bought 33 of the illegally-imported 5-to-10 foot long spiral tusks from an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Gregory Logan of New Brunswick, then re-sold them at flea markets for as much as $70 an inch.

Logan, who is awaiting extradition to the United States after conviction on trafficking charges in Canada in 2013, smuggled the hollow tusks across the border in Calais, Maine, then sent them to customers, including Zarauskas, from a FedEx office in Bangor, according to court filings.

The narwhal,  nicknamed the "unicorn of the ocean," is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

Zarauskas' attorney Steve Smith, of Bangor, said his client, who had once tipped U.S. investigators off to a sperm whale tooth smuggler in Nantucket, planned to appeal the decision.

"Mr. Zarauskas is a sporadically employed New Jersey construction worker who likes to go to flea markets," Smith said. "He was never present when a tusk crossed the border, and we think any suggestion that he knew the tusks were illegal is shaky."

The narwhal's tusk is a sensitive tooth that projects from the mammal's upper jaw, connecting its brain to the ocean environment.

Narwhal tusks, once believed to have medicinal powers, were peddled to nobility in Europe as "unicorn horns" by Vikings and other traders, who for centuries hunted narwhals in northern seas.

Only the Inuit of northern Canada and Greenland are permitted to hunt narwhals.
 

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For illegally trafficking in the spear-like tusks of the narwhal, a protected species of arctic whale, a New Jersey man was sentenced Monday to two years and nine months in prison.
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2015-59-13
Tuesday, 13 Jan 2015 04:59 AM
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