By Tristin Hopper
4 October 2013
(National Post) – Little is known of Gregory Logan from court documents. He is a former Mountie, he is in his late 50s, he hails from Grand Prairie, Alta., and, from a summer home in Maine, he orchestrated what may well be the largest narwhal smuggling ring of modern times.
Logan smuggled as many as 250 narwhal tusks past a sleepy border station in northern Maine. Then, from a FedEx station in Bangor, Me., he would package up the conspicuous, spiraled tusks and send them to a network of recipients throughout the United States. Reportedly, it was a scam he kept up for more than 10 years.
This week, a New Brunswick court responded by slapping Logan with what Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq told Nunavut media was “the largest penalty ever handed down in Canada” for a wildlife offence of its kind.
The tusks are one of the most coveted objects from the natural world, adorning scepters and thrones throughout Europe, and reportedly originating the myth of the unicorn. They are really elongated, spiraled teeth that begin to pierce their way through the whale’s face at adolescence, although they are not known to have any use for the narwhals.
While any Canadian with a few thousand dollars can buy the closely regulated tusks from third-party dealers or even small network of Inuit hunters selling the specimens online, the tusks have been illegal to import into the United States since the 1972 passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Naturally, whatever Canadian tusks do slip through into the U.S., can fetch a steep premium from collectors.
Logan was ultimately nabbed via Operation Longtooth, a two and a half year Environment Canada investigation spurred by a 2009 tipoff from U.S. authorities about a suspected pipeline of illicit Canadian narwhal tusks coming in from the Arctic.
Glen Ehler, director of wildlife enforcement for Environment Canada, said officials watched Logan at residences in New Brunswick and Alberta, seeing him at one point affix two long narwhal tusks to the bottom of his truck.
After searching one home, investigators learned that Logan was also using a trailer to smuggle tusks across the border by tying them onto the bottom and concealing them in a hidden compartment, he said. In total, Environment Canada says Logan smuggled 250 tusks into the U.S. and made a profit of $700,000, the bulk of which will be turned over to the receiver-general.
Logan faces a fine of $385,000, an eight-month conditional sentence to be served in the community, including four months of house arrest.
For good measure, Logan is also “prohibited from possessing or purchasing marine mammal products for a period of 10 years,” according to an Environment Canada statement.
Although Canadian officials were initially reticent to release details of Logan’s case, many details emerged from a U.S. grand jury indictment filed in January against two of Logan’s co-conspirators: Jay Conrad, a Tennessee roofing contractor, and Andrew Zarauska, an unemployed New York City oil tank repairman.
The scheme outlined in the 18-page indictment is simple. First, Logan would stock up on narwhal tusks from “cooperative retail stores” in Canada. Then, he would go online to drum up U.S. interest in the specimens.
U.S. documents provided an example of a typical message: “5 foot narwhal tusk specimen — is in excellent condition — came from the Baffin Island area at Pond Inlet.” [more]