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A Whale of a Crime; Va. Man Pleads to Trafficking Sperm Whale Teeth

 

istock photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It may not be the crime of the century, nonetheless, the feds say it’s a whale of a crime.

Richard M. Ertel, of Spotsylvania, Va., pleaded guilty Monday in Richmond, Va., to importation and illegal trafficking of sperm whale teeth, a violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the trading in endangered marine mammal parts.

Sperm whales are classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Justice Department said it is illegal to import parts of the sperm whale into the United States without the requisite permits and certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sperm whale teeth are commonly used for such things are jewelry and crafts, and it usually entails etchings or engravings in the teeth. The Justice Department said Ertel admitted that from April 2002 to June 2007, he bought sperm whale teeth from the Ukraine, and then sold to customers in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, mostly via the Internet.


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