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U.S. authorites say they’ve uncovered a smuggling ring that brought narwhal tusks from the Canadian Arctic to Maine for more than a decade, Clarke Canfield of The Associated Press reports.Narwhals — known as the unicorns of the sea — have spiral, ivory tusks that can grow longer than 8 feet and can sell for as much as $7,000 each.
Next week suspected American buyers Andrew Zarauskas and Jay Conrad will be arraigned on 29 charges including smuggling and money laundering violations for allegedly buying narwhal tusks they knew were illegally imported into the U.S.
The indictment states that two unnamed Canadians received at least 150 payments over 10 years as they bought tusks from retail stores in northern Canada and arranged sales over the Internet.
The Canadians allegedly smuggled the tusks into Maine “in a vehicle modified to conceal the tusks or a trailer with a false bottom,” and then shipped them via FedEx to American buyers including Zarauskas and Conrad.
If convicted Conrad and Zarauskas each face up to 20 years in prison on each of the most serious charges, as well as fines up to $250,000.
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