Canadians, Americans indicted in narwhal tusk smuggling plot

Posted Dec. 14, 2012, at 7:54 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Two Canadians and two Americans have been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with a plot to smuggle into the U.S. tusks from narwhal whales.

Andrew J. Zarauskas, 59, of Union N.J. and Jay Gus Conrad, 66, of Lakeland, Tenn., and the Canadians were indicted last month on charges of conspiracy to import merchandise, conspiracy to launder money, and smuggling goods into the U.S. through the Milltown Port of Entry in Calais.

The names of the Canadians involved have not been released.

Zarauskas was arrested Friday in New Jersey, according to the federal court’s electronic case filing system. The indictment was made public Friday.

The defendants’ first court appearances have not been set in Maine nor in other states.

The narwhal is a medium-sized toothed whale native to Arctic waters and protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law prohibits any person from using any port, harbor or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States to import marine mammals or marine mammal products, the indictment said. It is also unlawful for any person to transport, purchase, sell, export, or offer to purchase, sell, or export any marine mammal or marine mammal product for any purpose other than public display, scientific research, or enhancing the survival of a species.

The Canadians and Conrad and Zarauskas conspired from December 2000 to February 2010 to smuggle the tusks into the U.S. and to hide the proceeds of their sale, the indictment, dated Nov. 14, said. The Canadians purchased the tusks in northern Canada, then contacted potential buyers on the Internet.

According to the indictment, the Canadians customized a vehicle and a utility trailer to conceal the tusks. Once in Maine, the men drove to the Bangor FedEx location and sent more than 75 shipments of the tusks to customers, including Conrad in Tennessee and Zarauskas in New Jersey.

The Canadians, either separately or together, set up a bank account at Machias Savings Bank in Bangor and a mailing address in Ellsworth, where payments from Conrad for the illegal tusks were sent, the indictment said. The Canadians had the money transferred to a Canadian bank or withdrew it in large amounts from the bank.

If convicted, Zarauskas and Conrad each face up to 20 years in prison on the money laundering and smuggling charges.

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