Crime & Courts

Anchorage shop owner ordered to pay more than $400,000 for illegally buying and selling walrus ivory

An Anchorage antique and curio store owner was ordered Wednesday in federal court to pay more than $400,000 total in fines and restitution for illegally buying and selling walrus ivory and failing to pay taxes on the goods, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

Walter Earl, 76, illegally bought more than 50 walrus tusks that he intended to sell at The Antique Gallery, a downtown business that he owns, according to a plea agreement filed in the case. He pleaded guilty to three violations of the Lacey Act that resulted from sales of three walrus head mounts in 2017 to undercover agents, the agreement said.

Walrus can only be legally hunted for subsistence by Alaska Natives and sold to other Alaska Natives. To be sold commercially it must be made into an authentic Native handicraft.

Earl falsified documents and lied to buyers about the ivory’s source, according to the plea agreement.

Investigators discovered Earl had not filed income tax returns from 2013 to 2017 and therefore evaded paying taxes for several years, the statement said. He pleaded guilty to a count of tax evasion.

Earl feels “deep remorse” for his offenses, his attorney said in a sentencing memorandum filed in the case.

He was ordered Wednesday to pay $185,000 in fines and pay $216,054 for back taxes owed to the IRS. Earl forfeited additional tusks and illegal marine mammal parts to the government, the statement said.