Whale teeth smuggler sentenced in federal court

February 7, 2011 1:00:34 PM PST
A Northern California man was sentenced to six months home confinement and 50 hours of community service on Thursday, after he admitted to smuggling the ivory teeth of endangered sperm whales into the U.S. for sale, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

U.S. Magistrate Court Judge James Larson issued the sentence after James Saunders, 69, revealed that he had arranged the import and sale of the ivory teeth between 2002 and 2006.

Several of Saunders' shipments in 2003 and 2004 had a market value of more than $200,000, U.S. Attorney Melinda Hagg said in a statement.

The teeth are often bought and used for scrimshaw, or the art of engraving or sculpting figures, according to Haag.

In 2008, Saunders pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Lacey Act - a federal wildlife statute - and three counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, which made it illegal to import, sell, buy or possess sperm whale teeth since the early 1970s, Haag said.

U.S. merchants who purchased the illegal bounty and a 39-year-old Ukrainian man who supplied the whale teeth have also been convicted in federal courts, Haag said.


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