BANGOR, Maine — Two men charged in connection with a plot to smuggle tusks from narwhal whales into the U.S. through the Milltown Port of Entry in Calais entered not guilty pleas Friday at separate arraignments in U.S. District Court.
Andrew J. Zarauskas, 59, of Union N.J. and Jay Gus Conrad, 66, of Lakeland, Tenn., pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to import merchandise, conspiracy to launder money, and smuggling goods into the U.S. during their respective appearances at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.
Both men were released after their arraignment hearings.
Bail for Conrad, who is being represented by Federal Public Defender Virginia Villa, was set at $10,000 cash to be paid within 10 days.
Zarauskas’ bail was set at $25,000, unsecured. Stephen Smith was appointed his federal public defender Friday. Among the conditions of his release are that he submit to drug testing and that he refrain from gambling.
The Americans and two Canadians were indicted last month by a federal grand jury.
The names of the Canadians were redacted from documents filed in federal court in Bangor.
The Canadians have yet to be apprehended by U.S. authorities, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd S. Mikolop, who is prosecuting Conrad, Zarauskas and the unnamed Canadians, told U.S Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk during Friday’s proceedings.
“I’m hoping it happens within the next month,” he said.
The proceedings in Maine appear to mirror a Canadian case of narwhal tusk smuggling, according to the Telegraph-Journal newspaper, based in Saint John, New Brunswick.
“Gregory Robert Logan, 54, and Nina Lorene Logan, 51, both of Woodmans Point, [New Brunswick] each face 27 charges in Canada that they unlawfully exported narwhal tusks from St. Stephen to Calais, Maine — a violation of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection Regulation under Canada’s International and Interprovincial Trade Act,” the newspaper reported earlier this month. “They also face one charge that they knowingly possessed narwhal tusks for the purpose of exporting from Canada.”
According to the newspaper, the charges were filed by the Canadian federal Environment Department. The Logans are scheduled April 2 to appear in court in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
Mikolop declined Wednesday to discuss the case.
Mikolop, who works for the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., would neither confirm nor deny that the Logans are the Canadians named in the indictment handed up in Bangor.
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.
Canada does allow export of the tusks, according to the Telegraph-Journal, but will not issue permits for narwhal whale parts to countries that do not permit their importation, such as the U.S.
Conrad, Zarauskas and the Canadians conspired from December 2000 to February 2010 to smuggle the tusks into the U.S. and to hide the proceeds of their sale, according to the indictment, dated Nov. 14. The Canadians may have purchased the tusks legally 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 allegedly 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 allegedly 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.