February 14

Maine jury convicts N.J. man in narwhal tusk smuggling

He was part of a ring that drove the whale tusks from Canada into Maine in a secret compartment in a trailer.

The Associated Press

BANGOR — A New Jersey man accused of smuggling narwhal tusks into the United States was convicted Friday of federal crimes, several of which carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

A federal jury in Bangor convicted Andrew Zarauskas of Union, N.J., on six counts, including conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering for his role in a smuggling ring, prosecutors said. He was released on $25,000 unsecured bond while awaiting sentencing.

Narwhals, which are medium-sized whales native to Arctic waters, are known as the unicorns of the sea for their spiral tusks, which can grow longer than 8 feet. They are protected by the U.S. and Canada.

The tusks can sell for thousands of dollars, but it’s illegal to import them into the U.S.

In Canada, Inuit hunters are the only ones allowed to harvest the animals for their meat, skin and tusks.

Zarauskas’ attorney, Stephen Smith of Bangor, said the verdict would be appealed. “We think the government was overly aggressive in prosecuting this case and created some very important appeal issues,” Smith told the Bangor Daily News.

Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said the federal government takes the crime seriously.

“Zarauskas and his co-conspirators flouted U.S. law and international agreements that protect marine mammals such as the narwhal for their own personal financial benefit,” Dreher said in a statement issued in Washington, D.C. “The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute those engaged in this insidious trade.”

Federal prosecutors said two Canadians smuggled the tusks into Maine in a trailer with a secret compartment and shipped them via FedEx to Zarauskas and Jay Conrad of Lakeland, Tenn. Conrad pleaded guilty last month to illegally trafficking narwhal tusks. Another man, Eddie T. Dunn of Eads, Tenn., pleaded guilty in federal court in Alaska to trafficking tusks, officials said.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at KJonline.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)