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Alaska guide fined for smuggled mammoth tusk

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Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 3:25 pm | Updated: 11:33 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A respected Alaska river guide who pleaded guilty to helping a wealthy client smuggle a 10,000-year-old woolly mammoth tusk out of Alaska during a trip in the Brooks Range almost five years ago was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage earlier this month.

Karen Ann Jettmar, 61, of Anchorage, must pay a $30,000 fine and is on probation for three years. She was sentenced on Sept. 13 but the Alaska attorney general’s office didn’t announce it until Friday.

As part of her probation, Jettmar, author of “The Alaska River Guide — Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting in the Last Frontier” and owner of Equinox Wilderness Expeditions, must stop guiding for three years, return the tusk she collected illegally in 2009, and post a warning on her business website that it is illegal on all state, federal and privately owned lands to remove any objects of pre-historic, historic, archeological, or cultural interest without a permit or authorization.

The court also ordered Jettmar to remove from her business website anything that could cause customers to expect they might collect such objects while on guided tours.

Jettmar, a former National Park Service ranger, struck a plea deal in May, three days before her trial was scheduled to begin in Fairbanks. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in December on charges of conspiracy and removing paleontological resources from federal land. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft of government property.

The Bureau of Land Management began investigating Jettmar in 2008 because evidence of illegal fossil collecting was found on her website in the form of a picture of a frequent customer holding a mammoth tusk worth $4,000 taken from the Kokolik River in Northwest Alaska in 2007, according to the signed plea agreement.

During summer 2009, BLM sent an undercover agent to book a spot on one of Jettmar’s trips on the Utukok River, along with the client who had obtained the tusk.

During the trip, Jettmar made incriminating statements such as telling the client it was good he had his tusk back in Pennsylvania because he “would not want BLM coming after him,” according to the plea agreement. Agents later searched the client’s house and seized the tusk.

The client, Robert Franz, pleaded guilty in May in Philadelphia’s federal court to conspiracy to defraud the United States and theft of government property. He was fined $100,000.

Contact the newsroom at 459-7572.

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