Residents cited for allegation of illegal trade of walrus ivory and polar bear hides
Anchorage, AK–United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region issued Violation Notices to ten individuals from the Saint Lawrence Island village of Savoonga, Alaska for alleged violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Violation Notices were issued as part of an ongoing investigation into the illegal commercialization of walrus ivory, polar bear hides, and other wildlife that led to the April, 2011, indictment and arrest of Jesse Joseph Leboeuf and Loretta Audrey Sternbach of Glennallen, Alaska. The investigation revealed that Leboeuf and others illegally purchased raw walrus ivory and polar bear hides from individuals from Savoonga in exchange for cash, drugs, firearms, and other items such as cigarettes and snow machines. Leboeuf and Sternbach were charged with conspiracy to illegally commercialize marine mammal parts, several Lacey Act violations, and with federal weapons violations. Leboeuf and Sternbach pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced in US District Court for the District of Alaska in November 2011.
Over the course of the investigation, approximately 1000 pounds of walrus ivory, including more than 150 whole tusks, were purchased or seized. Additionally, the investigation resulted in the seizure of two polar bear hides, hundreds of other wildlife parts, and more than two dozen firearms, including a silencer and fully automatic weapons.
This week the following individuals from Savoonga were issued Violation Notices for alleged violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act: Ronnie Toolie, Ronald Kingeekuk, Lawrence Kingeekuk, David Akeya, Calvin Akeya, Patrick Newhall, Richmond Toolie, Floyd Kingeekuk, Carl Pelowook, and William Parks. “The protection of wildlife and marine resources for the use and enjoyment of Alaskan’s and others is an important priority. This investigation is part of our continuing dedication to that goal.” said U.S. Attorney Loeffler.
“This investigation highlights the importance of effective partnerships between law enforcement agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement will continue to partner with other agencies and the general public in the protection of the wildlife resources that are important to the people of Alaska and the nation.”, said Stanley Pruszenski, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement in Alaska.
This case was investigated and prosecuted in a joint effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Also assisting in the investigation were the United States Postal Inspection Service, Alaska State Troopers, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The issuance of a Violation Notice is not evidence of guilt. An individual receiving a Violation Notice is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This investigation remains ongoing.