Four men and one woman from the U.S. and Canada have been implicated in a ring to smuggle and sell rare narwhal tusks brought from Canada to the US.
Andrew Zarauskas, Jay Gus Conrad, Eddie Thomas Dunn, Gregory Robert Logan and Nina Logan are all implicated in the ring.
Zarauskas, 60, of Union, New Jersey was convicted on Friday of “conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, smuggling, and money laundering violations for buying narwhal tusks knowing the tusks had been illegally imported into the United States from Canada, as well as selling or attempting to sell the tusks after their illegal importation,” in Bangor, Maine says a Department of Justice release.
Zarauskas bought around 33 narwhal tusks from 2002-2008, all of which he knew were illegally smuggled into the country from Canada. He faces up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine for his role in the ring. His sentencing date has been set.
Conrad pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to smuggle goods into the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and smuggling goods into the U.S. Conrad admitted to smuggling at least 100 of the tusks between 2003 and 2008.
Dunn pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally sell wildlife and illegally selling wildlife in an Anchorage, Alaska court. He faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and will be sentenced March 20.
Logan is awaiting extradition from Canada. He acted as the Canadian connect for the ring and would hide the tusks in a hidden compartment of a trailer he drove across the border without permits or paperwork. He was convicted of seven offenses in Canada and required to pay a $385,000 fine for his role in the operation.
Zarauskas, Conrad and Dunn collectively sold more than $1.5 million worth of narwhal tusks.
Narwhals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States, but can be legally hunted and harvested by Canadian Inuits. The trade of Narwhal tusks is regulated by the Canadian government “to ensure that legal trade continues to remain viable and sustainable.”
Male narwhal’s can grow tusks up to almost nine feet. A narwhal’s “tusk” is one of their two teeth that grows in a sword-like spiral through the mammal’s upper lip. Females have been seen to grow a small tusk as well, but not as large as males. In rare occasions, a Narwhal will grow two tusks.
They are known as the unicorns of the sea and are found primarily in the Canadian Arctic and Greenlandic waters. In midieval times the tusks were often passed off as unicorn horns and fetched a pretty penny for their presumed magical qualities. Queen Elizabeth I had a tusk worth £2 million.
They typically grow to be 13 to 18 ft. long, or about the size of a beluga whale. Some live up to 50 years old. They are considered “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.