NJ Man Admits Selling Carvings Made of Sperm Whale Ivory
Earlier this week, we told you about a New Jersey man who had pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act by improperly labeling live iguanas that he was shipping to Hong Kong. Now, another man from the Garden State has admitted to breaking that same law by selling carvings made of sperm whale ivory.
And for the record, those two cases are completely unrelated but they do highlight the range of crimes that people try to get away with.
Acting U.S Attorney Rachael Honig says 55-year-old Richard Gontarek of Woodbridge, Middlesex County, pleaded guilty in Federal court on Wednesday to two counts of violating the Lacey Act by selling carvings made of sperm whale ivory to a buyer in Pennsylvania.
According to documents filed in this case,
On Jan. 3, 2018, and on Dec. 6, 2018, Gontarek shipped a package containing a carving made from the tooth of a sperm whale to a buyer in Etter, Pennsylvania, in exchange for payment. Sperm whales are listed in Appendix I to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Officials say, "the Lacey Act makes it a crime to sell in interstate commerce wildlife possessed in violation of any state law when in the exercise of due care the seller should have known that the wildlife was possessed in violation of the state law. New Jersey state law makes it unlawful for any person to possess with intent to sell ivory or any item that contains or is made from ivory."
As part of his plea agreement, Gontarek has agreed to pay a fine of $2,800 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund.
Each of the charges to which Gontarek pleaded guilty carries up to one year in prison with a $100,000 fine.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 25th.