Agent: NJ defendant paid Canadian man more than $85,000 for 33 smuggled narwhal tusks

Andrew J. Zarauskas of Union, N.J. (left) leaves the Federal Building in Bangor with his attorney Stephen Smith on Wednesday afternoon.
Andrew J. Zarauskas of Union, N.J. (left) leaves the Federal Building in Bangor with his attorney Stephen Smith on Wednesday afternoon.
Posted Feb. 13, 2014, at 6:23 p.m.
A forensic scientist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service showed the cranium of a narwhal whale seized in February 2010 at the home of Andrew Zarauskas in Union, N.J., to jurors Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine. Zarauskas allegedly helped smuggle the partial skull and whale tusks into Maine from Canada.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
A forensic scientist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service showed the cranium of a narwhal whale seized in February 2010 at the home of Andrew Zarauskas in Union, N.J., to jurors Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine. Zarauskas allegedly helped smuggle the partial skull and whale tusks into Maine from Canada.

BANGOR, Maine — The trial of a man accused of smuggling narwhal whale tusks will go to the jury Friday after closing arguments and instructions.

The prosecution and defense rested Thursday afternoon without the New Jersey man accused of being part of a conspiracy to illegally bring the tusks and at least one skull into the U.S. from Canada taking the stand in his own defense.

The federal trial of Andrew J. Zarauskas, 60, of Union, N.J., began Tuesday before a jury of 10 men and four women, including two alternates. The case is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Zarauskas was indicted in November 2012 by a federal grand jury with Jay Gus Conrad, 67, of Lakeland Tenn.; 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.

Eric Holmes of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service testified Thursday that a Canadian investigation begun in 2009 into the Logans’ sale of narwhal tusks to U.S. residents led American investigators to Zarauskas. An analysis of Logan and Zarauskas’ bank accounts showed that between November 2002 and July 2008, Zarauskas made 17 payments totalling $85,089 to Logan. Two were sent to Alberta, and the rest to a post office box Logan rented in Ellsworth.

By averaging the size of the six tusks, which ranged in length from 35.5 inches to 95.5 inches, found at Zarauskas’ home in 2010 and the price of $35 an inch, which is what the defendant said he paid for the tusks, Holmes estimated that the New Jersey man bought 33 tusks from Logan.

In a recorded interview played for jurors Tuesday and Wednesday, Zarauskas told investigators that he resold the tusks for $70 an inch, primarily at flea markets. The New Jersey man also said he believed he was not breaking the law because the tusks were shipped to him from the FedEx office in Bangor. Zarauskas said he believed Gregory Logan lived in Ellsworth. Logan used a fake Ellsworth address as his return address, Holmes testified Thursday.

Logan also opened an account at Machias Savings Bank in October 2002. Between then and Dec. 11, 2008, he deposited and withdrew more than $380,000, according to Todd Nickerson, an agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was assigned to the case. Nickerson examined Logan’s and Zarauskas’ bank accounts.

The male narwhal’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.

So far, jurors have not been told about Logan’s conviction or sentence in Canada but did hear from Officer Kim MacVicar of the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate of Environment Canada that Logan had been investigated. The jury also learned that the trailer Logan outfitted with a secret compartment in which he hid tusks while crossing the border had been seized by the Canadian government and sold at auction.

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.

 

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