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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tusk Trafficker Put Away for Nearly Three Years

BANGOR, Maine (CN) - A convicted smuggler must forfeit six narwhal tusks and one skull, plus $85,000, a federal judge ruled, applying a 33-month prison term.

The Justice Department announced the sentence Monday for New Jersey-based Andrew Zarauskas.

Nearly a year ago, a federal jury in Bangor convicted Zarauskas on six counts, including conspiracy, smuggling violations for buying and illegally importing narwhal tusks into the United States and money laundering violations associated with the illegal importations.

Prosecutors say the teeth and tusks that Zarauskas illegally imported were worth between $120,000 and $200,000.

In addition to the forfeiture and prison term, Zarauskas also faces a $7,500 fine and three years of supervised release.

"Narwhals are listed as 'threatened' under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are covered by the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)," the Justice Department said. "It is illegal to import parts of the narwhal into the United States without a permit and without declaring the parts at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."

Jurors heard that Zarauskas bought dozens of narwhal tusks over nearly six years from two Canadian co-defendants who brought the artifacts into the United States illegally by concealing the narwhal tusks either under their truck or under a utility trailer.

Zarauskas knew that the tusks were illegally imported, prosecutors said.

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