ANCHORAGE – An Anchorage man pleaded guilty to two counts of illegally trafficking in walrus ivory in U.S. District Court and ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and sentenced to two years probation.
Uzi Levi, 71, of Anchorage purchased six non-handcrafted Pacific walrus tusks and one three-tusked non-handcrafted Pacific walrus head mount from an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, all of which is in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it is unlawful for a non-Alaskan native to transport, purchase, sell, export or offer to purchase, sell or export any marine mammal or marine mammal product for any purpose other than public display, scientific research or enhancing the survival of a species or stock or any marine mammal part that has not been made into an authentic native article of handicraft.
In June 2020, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observed what appeared to be an Alaskan Native male carrying a two-tusked, non-handicrafted walrus head mount into the car rental business office owned by Levi and then leave without it. A few weeks later, an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent went to Levi’s car rental business and inquired about renting a vehicle. He explained that he didn’t have a lot of money and asked if there were other ways to rent a vehicle, such as trade or barter. The unidentified person at the business called Levi and handed the phone to the undercover agent. During this call and over the next eight months, Levi and the agent exchanged numerous phone calls and texts about the purchase of non-handicrafted, or raw, walrus ivory, which resulted in Levi purchasing six non-handicrafted Pacific walrus tusks on July 13, 2020, and one non-handicrafted, three tusked walrus head mount on September 29, 2020
Levi pleaded guilty to both counts and was sentenced before Chief United States District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason. In handing down the sentence regarding Levi’s trafficking in raw ivory, Judge Gleason stated, “the defendant’s actions really impact Alaska Native artists who are trying to market their products.”
U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker for the District of Alaska made the announcement. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki prosecuted the case.