A Spotsylvania man has been sentenced to prison and fined more than $40,000 for the illegal import and trafficking of sperm whale teeth.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says Richard Ertel of Lexington has been sentenced to one month in prison, 90 days of home confinement and two years of supervised release in addition to the fine.
Ertel pleaded guilty in October in U.S. District Court in Richmond. He admitted to two felony violations of the Lacey Act for trading in endangered marine mammal parts. The Department of Justice says it is illegal to import parts of sperm whale teeth into the United States without the requisite permits and certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sperm whale teeth are commonly used in scrimshaw, artwork that involves carving of whale teeth. Whale teeth and scrimshaw can fetch large sums of money from collectors and tourists.
Officials say that from April 2002 to June 2007, Ertel bought teeth from the Ukraine and sold it to customers in the U.S., mostly over the internet.