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Nenana man strikes plea deal in illegal sale of animal parts

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Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013 11:15 am | Updated: 11:17 am, Sat Mar 23, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — An artist and woodsman from Nenana who was charged with more than two dozen felony and misdemeanor counts of illegally selling and exporting Alaska animal parts has struck a plea deal with the federal government.

Miles Martin, 62, agreed to plead guilty to four different felony counts and will serve between six and 10 months in prison and pay a $6,750 fine. As part of the deal, Martin can no longer participate or conduct any business related to wildlife or assist others in doing the same.

Wearing a quilted flannel shirt and Carhartt jeans, Martin appeared in federal court Friday to agree to the deal before Judge Ralph Beistline.

Martin pleaded guilty to the illegal sale of migratory birds, violating the Lacey Act, smuggling goods from the United States and conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits the illegal sale of wildlife.

Martin, who has lived in Nenana for 38 years and was a regular vendor each year at the Tanana Valley State Fair, originally was charged with 28 felony and misdemeanor counts after state and federal agents searched his home in April 2011 as part of a larger investigation that netted three people who planned to illegally sell hundreds of pounds of walrus tusks.

Those three individuals — Jesse Joseph Leboeuf and Audrey Sternbach, of Glennallen, and Richard Blake Weshenfelder, of Anchorage — all pleaded guilty to charges in 2011, with Lebouef getting the most jail time at nine years. Sternbach got 3 1/2 years while Weshenfelder was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The four counts Martin pleaded guilty to included selling a raven, six trumpeter swan feathers and six bald eagle feathers to an undercover agent in March 2011; the illegal purchase, sale and export of a walrus head with two tusks; smuggling walrus and other marine mammal parts outside the U.S., as well as wolf, lion and lynx parts; and for offering the sale of 20 seal claws, three polar bear teeth, polar bear fur and a seal tooth that was advertised as a whale tooth.

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.

As part of his plea deal, Martin also agreed to turn over all the wildlife parts he still possesses to the federal government.

Sentencing was set for June 7 in federal court in Fairbanks.

Both Martin and his public defender, Jim Hackett, declined to comment following Friday’s hearing.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter:


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