Involving Illegal Take and Sale of Sea Otters
April 27, 2010
Smith, age 31, was sentenced by United States District Court Judge John W. Sedwick. Smith pled guilty to the two counts in February 2009. In connection with the guilty plea, Assistant United States Attorney Steve Skrocki advised the court that Smith was involved in a conspiracy to illegally take, transport, sell, and attempt to sell illegally killed sea otters on the open market.
Smith's prosecution is connected to an investigation in Southeast Alaska concerning the illegal hunting, killing, and export of sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals and the illegal sale of their pelts. The investigation started as a response to a concerned citizen's tip that led to a two-year undercover operation into the illegal commercialization of sea otters, seals, and sea lions, all of which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
During the undercover operation, agents documented the illegal take of sea otters, the illegal sale of their pelts, and the failure to record and report harvest data as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The undercover operation revealed suspected violations of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Lacey Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The investigation is ongoing.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement (USFWS-OLE) led the investigation that led to the prosecution of Mr. Smith. That investigation and today's prosecution benefitted significantly from the support of Alaska Wildlife Troopers, NOAA Fisheries' Office of Law Enforcement, U. S. Forest Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, the State of Alaska Attorney General's Office, the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement, and the U. S. Attorney's Office.
Stan Pruszenski, Special Agent in Charge, stated that the USFWS-OLE considers the illegal take and commercialization of marine mammal species to be a law enforcement priority, and this sentence reflects the serious nature of these crimes and will deter future violations.
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