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Woodbridge man sentenced to home confinement for selling ivory carvings

A Woodbridge man was sentenced to five years’ probation, including six months’ home confinement, for the interstate sale of carvings made of sperm whale ivory.

Richard Gontarek, 55, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court to an information, charging him with two counts of violating the Lacey Act, by selling to a buyer in Pennsylvania carvings made of sperm whale ivory that Gontarek should have known were possessed in violation of New Jersey State law, according to information provided by U.S Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.

Hammer imposed the sentence on Jan. 26 by videoconference.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, 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, according to the statement. Sperm whales are listed in Appendix I to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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.

Gontarek has agreed to pay a fine of $2,800 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund, according to the statement. He cannot possess, purchase, sell or transport wildlife protected under federal or state law during the probationary period.



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