Louisiana man pleads guilty to buying illegal walrus tusks

Casey Grove

A Louisiana knife maker pleaded guilty Tuesday in Alaska federal court to buying illegal walrus tusks from an undercover agent in 2012.

Prosecutors had charged the man, Shreveport resident John Daniel Graves, with buying the six unaltered walrus tusks, a misdemeanor violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the charges. Only Alaska Natives can sell or buy the raw ivory, most often used to create art and then resold.

According to the plea agreement, Graves negotiated over the phone with the undercover agent in November 2012. It's unclear how the two first came into contact with each other.

"The undercover agent informed Graves that the cost would be $90-100 per pound of walrus ivory," the plea agreement says. "Graves agreed to carve two knives in exchange for walrus tusks."

The agent mailed six tusks -- a total of about 12 pounds -- to Graves, who later carved a knife from one tusk and sent it back to the agent as payment, the agreement says. Graves tried to negotiate for another nine pounds of raw ivory in January 2013, according to the plea agreement. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents went to Graves' Shreveport home in March and found seven tusks, tusk pieces and a knife with an ivory handle, the plea agreement says.

Federal prosecutors recommended a $3,000 fine and one year of probation for Graves.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.