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Narwhal Tusk Trafficker Found Guilty

A New Jersey man was found guilty Friday of illegally trafficking and smuggling imported whale tusks.

A federal jury in Bangor, Maine, also found Andrew L. Zarauskas, 60, of Union, N.J., guilty of money laundering crimes associated with the purchase and attempted sale of tusks from narwhals, a medium-sized whale with an extremely long tusk that is much-sought by collectors.

The conviction was announced in a U.S. Department of Justice statement. An indictment by a federal grand jury in Maine had named Zarauskas and an alleged co-conspirator: Jay G. Conrad of Lakeland, Tenn., who pleaded guilty in January.

"Zarauskas and his co-conspirators flouted U.S. law and international agreements that protect marine mammals such as the narwhal for their own personal financial benefit," Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the statement. "The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute those engaged in this insidious trade in order to protect species for future generations to enjoy."

Between 2002 and 2008, Zarauskas purchased roughly 33 narwhal tusks that he knew were ilegally imported to the U.S. from Canada in violation of federal law, the Justice Department said.

Sentencing dates for Zarauskus and Conrad have not been set.

— Daniel Arkin