N.J. man convicted of smuggling narwhal tusks

     In this August 2005 file photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a pod of narwhals surfaces in northern Canada. Officials say they have broken up a smuggling ring in which narwhal tusks from the Canadian Artic were brought to Maine in a trailer with a secret compartment and then illegally sold to American buyers. Andrew Zarauskus, of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tenn., will be arraigned in Bangor, Maine, next week on federal smuggling and money laundering charges. (AP Photo/Kristin Laidre, NOAA, files)

    In this August 2005 file photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a pod of narwhals surfaces in northern Canada. Officials say they have broken up a smuggling ring in which narwhal tusks from the Canadian Artic were brought to Maine in a trailer with a secret compartment and then illegally sold to American buyers. Andrew Zarauskus, of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tenn., will be arraigned in Bangor, Maine, next week on federal smuggling and money laundering charges. (AP Photo/Kristin Laidre, NOAA, files)

    A New Jersey man accused of helping smuggle narwhal tusks into the U.S. has been convicted of federal crimes, several of which carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

    Prosecutors say a federal jury in Maine convicted Andrew Zarauskas of Union, N.J., on six counts for his role in a smuggling ring. He was released on $25,000 bond, pending sentencing. His lawyer said prosecutors were “overly aggressive” and the verdict would be appealed.

    Narwhals, which are medium-sized whales, are known for their spiral tusks that can grow longer than 8 feet. They are protected by the U.S. and Canada. It’s illegal to import the tusks into the U.S. In Canada, Inuit hunters are the only ones allowed to harvest the animals for meat, skin and their tusks.

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