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Nenana man accused of illegal sales, exports of animal parts

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 11:59 pm | Updated: 10:48 am, Sat Jan 5, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Nenana artist and woodsman Miles Martin has been charged with 28 felony and misdemeanor counts for illegally selling and exporting parts of Alaska animals, including polar bear teeth, seal claws, walrus ivory and wolf bones.  

The court documents filed in December outline a slew of charges dating from May 2009 to April 2011 and stemming from an online business of selling raw and processed animal parts. The charges include conspiracy to buy illegally obtained walrus tusks.

Martin runs a website where he sells a mixture of crafted art and raw materials, including wolf claws and walrus bones.

The charges come nearly two years after Martin’s home was searched by state and federal law enforcement officials in a larger investigation that netted three people who planned on selling hundreds of pounds of walrus tusks.

When reached by phone, Martin declined to comment. His public defender, Jim Hackett, declined to comment as a matter of policy.

The most serious charges against Martin are 22 charges of illegally shipping raw animal parts out of the United States in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species and the Endangered Species Act.

The 22 separate shipments started in May 2009 and ran through April 2011. Shipments included wolf teeth, lynx claws, walrus tusks and other parts that were destined for the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Argentina, Australia and other countries.

Each charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Martin also faces a charge for conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits the illegal sale of wildlife.  

The indictment doesn’t name the co-conspirators, but the timeline coincides with the arrest and conviction of Loretta Audrey Sternbach, Richard Blake Weshenfelder and Jesse Joseph Leboeuf. The trio all pleaded guilty to charges in 2011, with Sternbach taking the longest plea deal at nine years.

Martin faces two charges of violating the Lacey Act for selling walrus tusks and a walrus head in 2010 and 2011.

On or about March 5, 2011, Martin is accused of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for selling or offering for sale a common raven, six trumpeter swan feathers and seven bald eagle features. The maximum sentence is two years in prison and a fine.

Martin also has been charged with two counts of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act for selling or offering for sale 20 seal claws, three polar bear teeth, polar bear fur and a seal tooth, which was advertised as a whale tooth. The two counts each have a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act forbids the transportation, sale or purchase of any marine mammal, marine mammal part or product for anything but public display, scientific research or enhancing the survival of the species. It allows some Alaska Native groups to take and possess marine mammal parts for subsistence or for creating and selling handicrafts, but they can’t sell the raw materials.

Martin’s arraignment is set for Jan. 18.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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