A New Jersey man who resides in Middlesex County will be spending the next six months at home with nowhere to go after he was sentenced for selling sperm whale ivory carvings.

On two separate days in 2018, January 3 and December 6, 55-year old Richard Gontarek of Woodbridge sent out a package to someone in Etter, Pennsylvania which contained a carving each time that was made from the tooth of a sperm whale, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip R. Sellinger.

In return, Gontarek received payment.

If that sounds illegal, it is.

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According to a statement from Attorney Sellinger,

Sperm whales are listed in Appendix I to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The Lacey Act makes it a crime to sell in interstate commerce wildlife possessed in violation of any state law when in the exercise of due care the seller should have known that the wildlife was possessed in violation of the state law.

New Jersey state law makes it unlawful for any person to possess with intent to sell ivory or any item that contains or is made from ivory.

In violation of that, Gontarek found himself in trouble with the law and has since pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Lacey Act by selling the sperm whale ivory to a buyer in Pennsylvania knowing full well it was illegal in New Jersey to do so.

A judge has now sentenced Gontarek to five years of probation along with six months of home confinement for the interstate sale and he must and has also agreed with the court ruling to pay a fine of $2,800 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lacey Act Reward Fund.

In addition, for the next five years, Gontarek is barred from possessing, purchasing, selling or transporting wildlife protected under federal or state law.

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