Friday, February 4, 2011

Man Busted for Smuggling Whale Teeth

Posted By on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 6:30 PM

click to enlarge What a smile
  • What a smile
Here is a story that involves both sperm and teeth -- and it's still G-rated.

James Saunders was convicted yesterday in a San Francisco courtroom for scheming to illegally buy, sell, and smuggle sperm whale teeth from the faraway country of Ukraine. The conviction was a crack in an nationwide operation of people who were illegally importing the teeth.

It's illegal because the sperm whale -- which is the largest toothed whale --  has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since the 1970s. But since whales' teeth are made of ivory, criminals are clamoring to sell them for money. They are often used for scrimshaw, or the art of engraving and etching designs . Although our first President, George Washington, would have likely used animal teeth to make his own set.

Saunders was convicted of violating the Endangered Species Act, and another federal wildlife statute that bans the sale of protected wildlife -- dead or alive.

Saunders, 69, admitted that between 2002 and 2006, he and a Ukraine supplier plotted to import massive quantities of teeth into the U.S. -- with a market value of more than $200,000, according to San Francisco court documents.

Once the teeth were imported, Saunders would ship them to merchants, who would then sell the precious ivory as art. He was sentenced to six months of home confinement and 50 hours of

community service, which gives him plenty of time to take up scrimshaw.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF

and @SFWeekly 

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , ,


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • J-Pop Summit Festival
    Thousands descended onto Post Street through Japantown during the J-Pop Summit Festival from July 19-20. The celebration of Japanese Pop culture and Japanese Heritage attracted residents and visitors from all over the world. Photographs by Christopher Victorio.
  • Ramen Street Festival
    Ramen fans turned out in droves at the annual Japantown J-Pop Festival, which, in part, featured a delicious ramen festival. Photography by Beth LaBerge.