Crime Scene

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Trio charged in scheme to sell walrus tusks, polar bear hides

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

Three people have been charged in a scheme to illegally buy polar bear hides and hundreds of pounds of walrus tusks from the St. Lawrence Island village of Savoonga and market them online.

A federal grand jury has indicted: Jesse Joseph Leboeuf (a.k.a. Wayne Gerrard Christian), 47, Loretta Audrey Sternbach, 52, both of Glennallen, and Richard Blake Weshenfelder, 50.

All are from Glennallen, according to the indictment. The trio was scheduled to appear in federal court today in Anchorage.

Prosecutors also accuse Leboeuf and Sternbach of selling a fully automatic machine gun to an undercover agent in December 2010, and selling a fully automatic machine gun with a silencer to an undercover agent in February 2011.

On Tuesday authorities found “numerous firearms,” including a machine gun, along with more than 30 marijuana plants, coca plants, stolen art and hundreds of pounds of walrus ivory at Leboeuf and Sternbach’s home in Glennallen.

Just before his arrest, Leboeuf exited the home and "fired a shot," according to the Department of Justice.

Prosecutors say Leboeuf and Sternbach paid for walrus ivory and polar bear hides with money or in trade for guns, ammunition, marijuana, cigarettes and snowmachines. They made two trips to Savoonga in July and August of 2010, buying more than 500 pounds of walrus tusks, the indictment says.

Weshenfelder marketed the tusks online and contacted potential buyers, the indictment says.

Among the charges in the 10-count indictment, the trio is accused of illegally selling and transporting about 230 pounds of tusks valued at about $22,000 and two polar bear hides for $2,700 to a non-Alaska Native buyer between September and March.

The charges include:

-- One count of felony conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act.
-- Six counts of Lacey Act violations.
-- One count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
-- One count of illegal possession of a machine gun.
-- One count of possession of an unregistered machine gun.

Read the Department of Justice news release here.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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