Juneau man sentenced for selling walrus parts

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A Juneau man was sentenced Friday in federal court to eight months in prison for selling ivory and other walrus parts.

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Frederick R. Reynolds, 53, who lived part time in Pilot Point, was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage by U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki.

According to prosecutors, Reynolds and co-defendant Michael Sofoulis, 46, of Juneau, collected walrus parts from carcasses found on beaches near Pilot Point, a tiny community on the Alaska Peninsula about 375 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Both Reynolds and Sofoulis, who are non-Native, then illegally sold the walrus ivory and walrus bone in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prevents the transportation, sale, purchase and export of non-tagged walrus parts by individuals other than Alaska Natives.

"The law allows people to keep beach-found walrus parts as long as they simply register the parts with the Fish and Wildlife Service. What this case is about is the commercialization and taking advantage of the ability of people to find walrus parts and sell them at a profit. The law simply does not allow for that," Skrocki said.

As part of the plea agreement, Reynolds forfeited approximately 50 walrus teeth, two jaw bones with teeth, an oosik, one walrus skull and a tusk head mount.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents ended up seizing 10 walrus mounts that were sold illegally by Reynolds and Sofoulis.

Sofoulis previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act. He received a six-month sentence, was fined $15,000 and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution. He also was ordered to forfeit all walrus parts, including two walrus tusk head mounts.

Federal law allows anyone, Native or not, to collect parts from dead walrus found on beaches and land within a quarter-mile of the ocean. However, the person collecting the parts must report them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within 30 days. It is only after the parts have been registered and tagged that they become the property of the finder.

Prosecutors said Reynolds would collect beach-found ivory and in some cases fail to have it tagged within the 30-day deadline. He also sold the ivory to friends and tourists with some pieces fetching several thousand dollars or more.

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