Savoonga men cited for sale of marine mammal parts

Casey Grove

Federal prosecutors have cited 10 St. Lawrence Island villagers for the illegal sale of raw walrus ivory and polar bear hides, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The 10 Savoonga residents were issued notices that they'd violated the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act by selling the animal parts in exchange for cash, guns, drugs, cigarettes and snowmachines, the Attorney's Office announced Friday.

The notices stem from a nine-month investigation in 2010 and early 2011 into the commercial sale of ivory and hides to non-Alaska Natives. Only Alaska Natives are allowed to buy the unaltered parts of marine mammals. A Glennallen couple, Jesse James Leboeuf and Loretta Sternbach, pleaded guilty in November to selling the animal parts. Leboeuf was sentenced to nine years in prison, Sternbach to 3 1/2.

Federal authorities and undercover wildlife agents seized or purchased about 1,000 pounds of ivory -- of which more than 150 were whole tusks -- as well as two polar bear hides and more than two dozen guns, including machine guns and a gun with a silencer.

The Savoonga residents charged are Ronnie Toolie, Ronald Kingeekuk, Lawrence Kingeekuk, David Akeya, Calvin Akeya, Patrick Newhall, Richmond Toolie, Floyd Kingeekuk, Carl Pelowook and William Parks.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News