Kake man sentenced to six months imprisonment for illegally trafficking in sea otters
Anchorage, Alaska – United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that a Sitka man was sentenced in Ketchikan, Alaska to six months in imprison for illegally selling two tanned sea otter pelts to an undercover officer in violation of the Lacey Act.
On July 8, 2011, Michael E. Smith, 36, a resident of Sitka, Alaska. was sentenced by United States Magistrate Judge Leslie Longenbaugh. Upon completion of his sentence, Smith will serve one year of supervised release. While on supervised release, Smith cannot hunt, or in any way participate in the take, sale or manufacture of marine mammals or marine mammal products. Smith must also forfeit the firearm used in connection with the offense.
According to court documents, Smith, an Alaska Native, who was employed at the Sitka Tribal Tannery, illegally sold two whole sea otter pelts to an undercover agent for $800, in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The tanned pelts were then shipped outside of Alaska to the undercover agent in violation of the Lacey Act. The investigation is the result of a year and a-half undercover investigation conducted against illegal sea otter hunting and trafficking in Southeast Alaska, Anchorage and Fairbanks. The investigation has documented numerous individuals involved in the illegal activity and to date, two individuals have plead guilty to illegal sea otter commercialization and are serving their sentences in federal prison. With respect to Smith, Magistrate Judge Longenbaugh expressed particular concern that Smith broke the law despite holding the position of a village police officer.
The Alaska State Wildlife Troopers assisted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in this investigation.