Couple charged in animal parts trafficking

April 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, April 29 (UPI) -- An Alaskan couple were charged with illegally trafficking in walrus tusks and polar bear hides purchased during visits to an island village, authorities said.

Loretta Audrey Sternbach, 52, and her companion, Jesse Joseph Leboeuf, 46, of Glennallen, Alaska, face seven felony counts for the alleged sales of the hides and tusks, the Alaska Daily News reported Friday.

They also face two weapons charges for allegedly owning an illegal machine gun, the newspaper said.

Prosecutors said an Anchorage man advertised the tusks online and communicated with potential buyers.

Richard Blake Weshenfelder, 50, faces one count of conspiring to violate a federal endangered species law.

Sternbach and Leboeuf are accused of purchasing two polar bear hides and more than 500 pounds of walrus tusks in a number of trips to the St. Lawrence Island village of Savoonga in 2010 and 2011.

"There's a significant quantity of ivory," Assistant U.S. Attorney Yvonne Lamoureux said.

The total amount represents ivory from about 100 walruses, she said.

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