For almost a decade, two Tennessee men operated a multinational scheme to illegally buy and sell narwhal tusks.
Narwhals are rare, toothed whales found in the Arctic Ocean and North Sea.
Jay Conrad of Lakeland and Eddie Dunn of Eads pleaded guilty in Anchorage to working with a Canadian man starting in 2003 to import more than 100 tusks from Eastern Canada into Maine.
After receiving the tusks in Tennessee, Conrad and Dunn marketed and sold the tusks using auction sites, including eBay, and sold to well-known buyers of ivory. Buyers were located in Alaska and elsewhere in the United States.
Conrad and Dunn paid the Canadian supplier to purchase and provide more tusks for resale.
The scheme brought in roughly $1.1 million worth of tusks, of which between $400,000 and $1 million were sold.
“In this conspiracy, Dunn and Conrad flouted U.S. law and international agreements that protect marine mammals like the narwhal from commercial exploitation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney Robert General Dreher. “If left unchecked, this illegal trade has the potential to irreparably harm the species.”
Dunn is scheduled to be sentenced by in the District of Alaska on March 20. The maximum penalty for conspiring to illegally traffic and trafficking narwhal tusks is five years of incarceration and a fine of $250,000.
Conrad also conspired to commit money laundering crimes, so he faces a maximum of 20 years incarceration and a fine of $250,000.
Andrew Zarauskas, who is a codefendant in the scheme, has a trial set for Feb. 4 in Bangor, Maine.