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Press Release

Massachusetts Antique Dealer Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison for Trafficking in Illegally-Imported Narwhal Tusks and Sperm Whale Teeth

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

WASHINGTON—David L. Place, owner of Manor House Antiques Cooperative in Nantucket, Mass., was sentenced to 33 months in prison for illegally importing and trafficking in Narwhal tusks and Sperm Whale teeth, the Department of Justice and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) announced today.

On Nov. 19, 2010, a federal jury in Boston convicted Place of eight counts including conspiracy, Lacey Act violations and smuggling for buying and illegally importing Sperm Whale teeth and Narwhal tusks into the United States, as well as selling the teeth and tusks after their illegal importation. The market value of the teeth and tusks illegally imported and sold by Place was determined to be between $200,000 and $400,000. One of Place’s co-conspirators, Andrei Mikhalyov of Odessa, Ukraine, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston on related charges. Mikhalyov served a nine month prison sentence and was deported to the Ukraine.

Sperm Whales are listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Narwhals are listed as “threatened” under the ESA, and are listed on Appendix II of CITES. It is illegal to import parts of either the Sperm Whale or the Narwhal into the United States without the requisite permits/certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The unlawful importation of endangered species is a serious crime that the Justice Department is committed to stopping,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “We will not tolerate the illegal market in endangered species such as the Narwhal and the Sperm Whale, and we will continue to prosecute those who violate the law.”

“NOAA takes its responsibilities for protection of marine species under the Endangered Species Act and CITES very seriously,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. “We applaud today's decision and hope it serves as a strong warning to others who would harm threatened or endangered species for commercial gain.”

The case was investigated by agents from the Law Enforcement Offices of NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Gary N. Donner and James B. Nelson of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.

Updated April 3, 2024

Press Release Number: 11-258