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Narwhal Whale Tusk-Smuggling Ring Busted in Maine, Allegedly Operating for Over a Decade

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#1 AnimuX



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Posted 03 January 2013 - 11:30 PM



If there’s one thing Maine knows all too well, it’s seafood.

Two men allegedly took this reputation too far, as WCBV reported today that government officials have broken up a narwhal whale tusk-smuggling ring involving the animals’ ivory tusks from the Canadian Arctic being transported into Maine via a special trailer complete with a secret compartment.

The conspiracy was reportedly the work, in part, of Andrew Zarauskus, of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tenn., who will be arraigned in Bangor, Maine, next week on 29 charges of federal smuggling and money laundering each, Newser reports.

The tusks, which are illegal to import into the United States, can grow up to 8 feet long and have been coming into Maine for nearly a decade, an indictment said, from which point they were shipped to Conrad, Zarauskus and other unnamed American buyers via FedEx.

The tusks can reportedly sell for thousands of dollars each, and while the court document does not specify how much money was in play, it does specify that the Canadian sellers received a minimum of 150 payments from tusk buyers.

The Tusks were brought into the U.S. through Calais, Maine, a town located on the Northeast edge of the state bordering New Brunswick, Canada.

Narwhal whales are known as the unicorns of the sea for their majestic, spiraled ivory tusks, which, by some accounts, can typically fetch anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000.

“The only other narwhal tusk smuggling case [Department of Justice environmental crimes prosecutor Todd] Mikolop was aware of involved Nantucket, Mass., antiques dealer David Place,” reports Newser, “who was sentenced in 2011 to nearly three years in prison for importing and trafficking in sperm whale teeth and narwhal tusks worth up to $400,000.”

As a native Mainer and current Boston resident, this debacle hits particularly close to home. I can only hope that the issue is resolved, those guilty brought to justice, and order restored to our borders and our seas. Because if there’s one thing cooler than a unicorn, it’s a unicorn with flippers.

“Anything else you are interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolute critical moment in the history of our planet.” -- Carl Sagan

#2 AnimuX



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Posted 04 January 2013 - 05:49 PM



Does one of your neighbors have a beautiful narwhal tusk displayed in his living room for the whole world to see? Well, you should tell him to put it away, because that majestic tooth from the unicorn of the sea was, most likely, smuggled illegally from Canada.

Canadian and American authorities have busted a smuggling ring centered on narwhal tusks, the AP reports. And the strangest part about it is the Canadian couple who brought the tusks over the border seem to have been operating for a decade. They would buy the body parts of the rare whales legally in Canada, then smuggle them across one of the New Brunswick-to-Maine border stops and resell them for black-market prices in the U.S. The sale of narwhal tusks is forbidden under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species agreement in the U.S., but not in Canada because the beasts reside there. The couple was even using a trailer specially designed to smuggle tusks across the border undetected:

    The indictment also details how the alleged smugglers used “a vehicle modified to conceal tusks” for shipment across the St. Croix River border into Maine, including “a utility trailer modified with a false bottom, zip ties, custom-made felt shipping sleeves, packing foam, plywood, metal strapping and screws and shipping labels.”

A narwhal tusk is expensive enough when sold legally, so you can understand the importance of trying not to get busted while taking them over the border. A single stuck can range from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on the quality.

Smuggling strange but surprisingly valuable items across the border from Canada is almost a trend. The great Canadian maple syrup heist captured our attention at the end of last summer, if only because we didn't know you could steal $30 million worth of maple syrup. That, and it threatened our pancakes.

And this is just the latest in a long line of strange animal happenings north of the border. First it was that horse in a hotel, and who could forget that poor, holiday shopping Ikea monkey? There was a brief hullabaloo about an eagle, but that was fake. We started a "what's next" pool after the Ikea thing happened, but no one put money on a narwhal tusk smuggling ring. Everyone bet on a moose that plays hockey coming out of Canada next.

“Anything else you are interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolute critical moment in the history of our planet.” -- Carl Sagan

#3 AnimuX



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Posted 04 January 2013 - 11:34 PM


More details...


Two Canadians and two Americans have been charged in connection with allegations that they engaged in a cross-border narwhal tusk smuggling ring.

An indictment recently released by U.S. federal prosecutors describes the operation.

Allegedly, the tusks, most of which come from narwhals hunted in Nunavut, were bought legally from sources in northern Canada.

Arrangements to resell them illegally in the U.S. were made via the Internet.

With buyers secured, the tusks were smuggled across the border from St. Stephen, New Brunswick to Calais, Maine in “a utility trailer modified with a false bottom.”

Finally, they were shipped via FedEx to various American buyers.

Gregory and Nina Logan of Grand Prairie, Alberta, were charged Dec. 14, 2011 with violating the cumbersomely entitled Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.

Exactly one year later, Andrew Zarauskas of New Jersey was arrested in connection with an illegal narwhal tusk importation and money laundering operation.

Jay Conrad of Tennessee has been charged with similar offences.

A hard link between the Logans, Zarauskas and Conrad has yet to be established through the trial process.

However, the U.S. court documents identify “Gregory R. Logan” as the Canadian recipient of payments for narwhal tusks from U.S. buyers.

Narwhals are legally harvested in Canada and Greenland and fetch thousands of dollars each.

The narwhal population of areas around Somerset Island, Admiralty Inlet, Eclipse Sound and east Baffin Island is estimated at around 90,000.

Under a complex new harvesting plan, DFO proposes a total allowable catch, divided among six management regions, of 1,180 narwhal per year.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, hundreds of these horns are traded annually.

Because narwhals are considered threatened and are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Fauna (CITES), the trade is tightly regulated.

With the right permits, narwhal tusks may be bought and sold legally within Canada and exported to some other countries.

But the United States prohibits the import of narwhal tusks — unless they’re more than 100 years old, and even then a permit is required.

The Logans’ case is being tried in New Brunswick. Court proceedings have been repeatedly stalled since their arrest over a year ago, but their next court appearance is slated for April 2.

The 28 separate counts against the couple span six years, from Sept. 1, 2003 to Aug. 24, 2009.

Paul Adams, the Crown prosecutor for the case, says the Logans could face a maximum of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $150,000.

On the American side, charges will be heard for both Zarauskas and Conrad on January 11.

The men face up to 20 years in prison on multiple charges and up to $250,000 in fines, said a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Anything else you are interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolute critical moment in the history of our planet.” -- Carl Sagan

#4 AnimuX



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Posted 12 January 2013 - 03:00 AM

Two men plead not guilty to smuggling narwhal tusks into U.S.



Two men charged in connection with a plot to smuggle tusks from narwhal whales into the U.S. through the Milltown Port of Entry in Calais entered not guilty pleas Friday at separate arraignments in U.S. District Court.

Andrew J. Zarauskas, 59, of Union N.J. and Jay Gus Conrad, 66, of Lakeland, Tenn., pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to import merchandise, conspiracy to launder money, and smuggling goods into the U.S. during their respective appearances at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.

Both men were released after their arraignment hearings.

Bail for Conrad, who is being represented by Federal Public Defender Virginia Villa, was set at $10,000 cash to be paid within 10 days.

Zarauskas’ bail was set at $25,000, unsecured. Stephen Smith was appointed his federal public defender Friday. Among the conditions of his release are that he submit to drug testing and that he refrain from gambling.

The Americans and two Canadians were indicted last month by a federal grand jury.

The names of the Canadians were redacted from documents filed in federal court in Bangor.

The Canadians have yet to be apprehended by U.S. authorities, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd S. Mikolop, who is prosecuting Conrad, Zarauskas and the unnamed Canadians, told U.S Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk during Friday’s proceedings.

“I’m hoping it happens within the next month,” he said.

The proceedings in Maine appear to mirror a Canadian case of narwhal tusk smuggling, according to the Telegraph-Journal newspaper, based in Saint John, New Brunswick.

“Gregory Robert Logan, 54, and Nina Lorene Logan, 51, both of Woodmans Point, [New Brunswick] each face 27 charges in Canada that they unlawfully exported narwhal tusks from St. Stephen to Calais, Maine — a violation of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection Regulation under Canada’s International and Interprovincial Trade Act,” the newspaper reported earlier this month. “They also face one charge that they knowingly possessed narwhal tusks for the purpose of exporting from Canada.”

According to the newspaper, the charges were filed by the Canadian federal Environment Department. The Logans are scheduled April 2 to appear in court in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

Mikolop declined Wednesday to discuss the case.

Mikolop, who works for the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., would neither confirm nor deny that the Logans are the Canadians named in the indictment handed up in Bangor.

The narwhal is a medium-sized toothed whale native to Arctic waters and protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law prohibits any person from using any port, harbor or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States to import marine mammals or marine mammal products, the indictment said. It is also unlawful for any person to transport, purchase, sell, export, or offer to purchase, sell, or export any marine mammal or marine mammal product for any purpose other than public display, scientific research or enhancing the survival of a species.

Canada does allow export of the tusks, according to the Telegraph-Journal, but will not issue permits for narwhal whale parts to countries that do not permit their importation, such as the U.S.

Conrad, Zarauskas and the Canadians conspired from December 2000 to February 2010 to smuggle the tusks into the U.S. and to hide the proceeds of their sale, according to the indictment, dated Nov. 14. The Canadians may have purchased the tusks legally in northern Canada, then contacted potential buyers on the Internet.

According to the indictment, the Canadians customized a vehicle and a utility trailer to conceal the tusks. Once in Maine, the men allegedly drove to the Bangor FedEx location and sent more than 75 shipments of the tusks to customers, including Conrad in Tennessee and Zarauskas in New Jersey.

The Canadians, either separately or together, set up a bank account at Machias Savings Bank in Bangor and a mailing address in Ellsworth, where payments from Conrad for the illegal tusks were sent, the indictment said. The Canadians allegedly had the money transferred to a Canadian bank or withdrew it in large amounts from the bank.

If convicted, Zarauskas and Conrad each face up to 20 years in prison on the money laundering and smuggling charges.

“Anything else you are interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolute critical moment in the history of our planet.” -- Carl Sagan