BANGOR, Maine — A forensic scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carefully cradled a cranium as he showed it to jurors Wednesday on the second day of the federal trial of a New Jersey man accused of being part of a conspiracy to smuggle narwhal whale tusks into the U.S. from Canada.
Barry Baker, who works at the service’s forensic lab in Ashland, Ore., pointed out that the lower jaw of the skull was missing. He said that the cranium was unusual because it had no sockets for teeth in the upper jaw.
“That rules out nearly all the other animals in the world,” Baker said, as he gently turned the cranium, which appeared to be about two feet long and a foot wide. “This hole in the front of the cranium is actually a tooth socket from which the large tusk grows.”
Baker testified that he concluded the cranium was that of a narwhal whale because “it was so distinctive, there was nothing else in the world it can be.”
The skull and six narwhal whale tusks were removed more than four years ago from the home of Andrew J. Zarauskas, 60, of Union, N.J., according to court documents. Zarauskas was indicted in November 2012 by a federal grand jury with Jay Gus Conrad, 67, of Lakeland Tenn.; and Gregory Robert Logan, 56, and his wife, Nina Logan, 53, both of Woodmans Point, New Brunswick, and Grande Prairie, Alberta.
All four were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to import merchandise, conspiracy to launder money, smuggling goods into the U.S. and money laundering. Only Zarauskas, who is free on bail, is on trial this week at U.S. District Court in Bangor before a jury of 10 men and four women, including two alternates.
Baker also testified Wednesday that he had examined the tusks removed from the defendant’s home and determined them to be from narwhal whales.
Andry Guidera, a special agent with the service, told jurors Wednesday that on Feb. 17, 2010, he had removed what he believed to be the partial skull and six tusks from Zarauskas’ home. The agent said that he went to the defendant’s house after determining that Zarauskas had been purchasing narwhal whale tusks from Logan since 2002.
Guidera testified that Logan was suspected of illegally bringing narwhal whale tusks across the border, then shipping them to customers like Zarauskas from a FedEx office in Bangor. Logan also had a post office box and bank account in Ellsworth.
In a 2½-hour interview recorded the same day with Guidera and other agents and played for the jury Tuesday and Wednesday, Zarauskas insisted that he thought Logan lived in Maine. The New Jersey man, who was a confidential informant for the service on a separate case involving the illegal importation of whale teeth, said that because he was purchasing the whale tusks from within the U.S., he did not intentionally break the law.
The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday with the testimony of a Canadian officer who investigated the Logans. The case is expected to go to the jury Friday.
The male narwhal whale’s ivory tusk spirals counter-clockwise from its head and can be as long as eight feet, according to NationalGeographic.com. That spiral marking was notable on the eight-foot long tusk shown to the jury Tuesday during the prosecution’s opening statement. Scientists have speculated it is prominent in mating rituals, perhaps used to impress females or battle rival suitors.
The narwhal is a medium-size whale native to Arctic waters and protected in the U.S. by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In Canada, it is protected in the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Only the Inuit may legally harvest the whale in Canada. The Inuit may legally sell the tusks in Canada.
Conrad pleaded guilty last month to one count each of conspiracy to smuggle goods into the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and smuggling goods into the U.S. He is free on bail awaiting sentencing but is listed as a witness for the defense at Zarauskas’ trial.
A former Canadian Mountie, Gregory Logan on Feb. 1 completed four months of home confinement and will be on probation in Canada for another four months. He was ordered to pay a $385,000 fine — the highest ever issued in Canada for violating that country’s wildlife laws, according to Canadian news reports. Logan also was prohibited from possessing or purchasing marine mammal products for a period of 10 years.
The ex-Mountie is awaiting extradition to the U.S., according to court documents filed in federal court in Bangor.
Unless a witness brings up Logan’s conviction, jurors won’t be told about it. Woodcock granted a defense motion Monday that said the fact that Logan was convicted and fined in Canada might prejudice jurors against Zarauskas. If Conrad takes the stand, the jury would learn about his conviction during his testimony.
Nina Logan has not yet been arrested on the U.S. charges. Charges against her in Canada were dismissed last year after Gregory Logan pleaded guilty in New Brunswick to crimes connected to the smuggling operation.
Zarauskas and the Logans, if convicted, each face up to 20 years in federal prison in the U.S. Each also could be fined $500,000 or twice the value of the money involved in the offense, whichever is greater.