Florida Couple Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Evade $42 Million in Duties for Illegally Importing and Selling Plywood
WASHINGTON— A New Jersey man was arrested today for crimes related to the illegal importation and illegal trafficking of narwhal tusks (whale tusk) and associated money laundering crimes, announced Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
On Nov. 14, 2012, a federal grand jury sitting in Bangor, Maine, returned an indictment that was partially unsealed today upon the arrest of Andrew L. Zarauskas of Union, N.J. The indictment also names Jay G. Conrad of Lakeland, Tenn., who was summoned to appear in the District of Maine on Jan. 3, 2013. The indictment charges Conrad and Zarauskas with conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering violations for buying narwhal tusks knowing the tusks had been illegally imported into the United States, as well as selling or attempting to sell the tusks after their illegal importation. Zarauskas was arrested this morning at his home in Union.
The indictment alleges that from 2007 to 2010, Conrad and Zarauskas each knowingly purchased narwhal tusks that each knew were illegally imported into the United States in violation of federal law. A narwhal is a medium-sized whale with an extremely long tusk that projects from its upper left jaw. A narwhal is a marine mammal that is protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is illegal to import parts of marine mammals into the United States without the requisite permits/certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Narwhal tusks are commonly collected for display purposes and can fetch large sums of money.
The indictment further alleges that Conrad and Zarauskas each conspired with persons located in Canada to illegally import the protected tusks for re-sale in the United States. Conrad and Zarauskas also each conspired with persons located in Canada to launder the funds used to purchase the narwhal tusks by transporting, transmitting, or transferring checks and money orders from Tennessee and New Jersey to Canada, intending that the money be used for further illegal imports of narwhal tusks.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. If convicted of these charges, Conrad and Zarauskas each face up to twenty years in prison on each of the most serious charges, as well as fines up to $250,000.
The case was investigated by agents from National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration - Office of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Office of Law Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Todd S. Mikolop of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.