A New Jersey man has been convicted for his role in a smuggling ring that secreted at least 100 tusks of a rare arctic whale into the U.S. – a priceless commodity so coveted they partly comprise the English royal scepter.
The Bangor Daily News reports 60-year-old Andrew Zarauskas is the fifth person to be charged in a scheme to illegally import from Canada narwhal tusks -- the single tooth that is typically grown by the eponymous whale, which has been known throughout the centuries in lore as the “unicorn of the seas.”
Zarauskas was reportedly found guilty on Friday in federal court in Maine of conspiracy to smuggle goods into the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, smuggling goods into the U.S. and money laundering.
The News cites the Department of Justice in writing Gregory Robert Logan, 56, and his wife, Nina Logan, 53, of Canada bought the tusks in their native country, where indigenous Inuit tribes still hunt the marine mammal – as they have for centuries -- under the supervision of the government.
They then reportedly sold the tusks via the Internet to Zarauskas, Jay Gus Conrad, 67, and Eddie Thomas Dunn, 59, both of Tennessee, as well as others as-yet unnamed parties, all of whom profited through lucrative resale.
The News reports that Zarauskas, like Conrad and the Logans, now faces fines and up to 20 years in federal prison.
Dunn, for his part, reportedly pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to illegally sell wildlife and one count of illegally selling wildlife. He reportedly faces as many as five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
According to narwhal.org, “So prized was the fabled tooth of the unicorn that Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century paid 10,000 pounds for one, equivalent to the cost of an entire castle. . . (and) in Japan, two crossed narwhal teeth adorn the entrance to the Korninkaku Palace.”
Meanwhile, Philly.com cites the DOJ in writing the narwhal falls under the auspices of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, making it illegal to import narwhal tusks into the U.S., or, “sell them for anything other than scientific research or uses that enhance the species survival.”