Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2011
last updated: July 16, 2011 12:54:03 PM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Two men charged with trading in hundreds of pounds of walrus tusks and two polar bear hides admitted in court Friday to breaking federal marine mammal laws. A third member of the alleged conspiracy is set to enter a guilty plea Tuesday.
In April, prosecutors accused Glennallen, Alaska, residents Jesse James LeBoeuf, 47, and his longtime companion Loretta Audrey Sternbach, 52, of trading cigarettes, guns, snowmachines and other items to Natives in the Saint Lawrence Island village of Savoonga in exchange for federally protected animal parts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Yvonne Lamoureux declined to comment on the possibility of charges for the ivory suppliers. By law, only Natives living on the Alaska coast can hunt the mammals, and they can't sell the raw ivory to private collectors.
"The investigation is ongoing," she said.
Anchorage resident Richard Blake Weshenfelder, 50, helped the couple advertise and sell the parts online to out-of-state buyers.
According to documents filed in court after the couple's April 26 arrest, federal agents found about 20 guns -- including an illegal machine gun -- 30 marijuana plants and some coca plants at their Glennallen home. They were charged with buying more than 500 pounds of walrus ivory and two polar bear hides during trips to Savoonga in 2010 and 2011 and illegally selling the animal parts.
LeBoeuf and Weshenfelder accepted plea deals Friday; Sternbach is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on Tuesday
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