Narwhal whale tusks were confiscated from David L. Boone of Brinnon, who was convicted of trafficking in ivory from a protected species.

Narwhal whale tusks were confiscated from David L. Boone of Brinnon, who was convicted of trafficking in ivory from a protected species.

Ivory dealer headed to prison after aiding federal prosecution of smuggler

TACOMA — A 64-year-old ivory dealer from Brinnon was sentenced to six months in federal prison for trafficking narwhal tusks, sperm whale teeth and walrus tusks after helping the Department of Justice prosecute a Canadian smuggler, the federal office said this week.

David L. Boone, who operates Boone Trading Co., was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to half a year in prison, one year of supervised release and a $25,000 fine, according to court records. Prosecutors sought 16 months.

Boone told the Peninsula Daily News on Thursday he is looking forward to those six months, which he said he will use to work on a book about recovery from drug addiction.

The government has yet to tell him when he is supposed to turn himself in, but he anticipates going to a prison camp in Oregon within the next month, he said.

Boone was charged in 2013 with smuggling/aiding and abetting and violating the Lacey Act/trafficking/aiding and abetting, court records say.

He immediately pleaded guilty in 2013 and began working with authorities, he said.

“I pleaded guilty because I was guilty, and I cooperated because I felt bad about what I did,” Boone said. “I made a lot of mistakes.”

Court documents say Boone purchased 38 narwhal tusks and that the cumulative length of those tusks was about 2,721 inches. It was estimated that at $150 per inch, they were valued at about $400,000.

“Mr. Boone knowingly accepted the risk of detection and prosecution as a cost of conducting illegal transactions,” prosecutors wrote. “That risk has now been realized, but not before he enjoyed significant profits.”

Boone said he was addicted to methamphetamine and cocaine until 2008 and that his greed got the best of him.

His case remained sealed while he helped the U.S. and Canadian governments prosecute Gregory Logan, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer accused of smuggling narwhal tusks across the border.

Logan pleaded guilty last year to 10 money-laundering counts, The Associated Press reported.

According to records filed in the case, between 2006 and 2008, Boone purchased narwhal tusks from a Canadian and a resident of Tennessee.

While native Inuit of northern Canada are allowed to hunt narwhal, commonly called the “unicorn of the sea,” it is illegal to import tusks into the United States.

Boone purchased tusks from Logan for a few years but asked for documentation only after a customer requested it.

When Logan provided questionable documentation, Boone said he turned a blind eye and didn’t ask any further questions.

“When I knew the documentation was bogus, I continued to buy,” Boone said. “I went back and bought more.”

Boone’s business has dealt in narwhal tusks for decades. He said tusks harvested before 1972 can be legally sold in Washington.

Prosecutors say he trafficked marine mammal parts worth as much as $400,000.

“We have an obligation to the international community to prosecute those who seek to profit from illegal trafficking in protected species such as the magnificent narwhal,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes in a statement.

“I join those who had a part in this investigation in reminding anyone who chooses to put selfish profit above protection of the earth’s threatened species — we will devote the resources necessary to finding and holding accountable anyone responsible for this kind of despicable crime.”

In 2011, Boone sold sperm whale teeth to an undercover law enforcement officer, and in 2012, he bought and sold a walrus skull and tusks.

He said sperm whale teeth are legal to buy and sale in Washington, but it is illegal to cross a state border for commercial purposes.

Boone said the undercover officer who bought the sperm whale teeth told him he lived in Montana. Boone said he sold the teeth and shipped them to an address in Spokane so the undercover officer’s friend could finish the shipping.

“They are not illegal teeth,” Boone said. “What was illegal was me shipping to Spokane and their shipping across state lines.”

In addition to Boone, three other United States citizens were prosecuted and convicted for their participation in the narwhal tusk smuggling scheme — one in the District of Maine, and one each in the districts of Massachusetts and Alaska.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.

“The government is not questioning the sincerity of Mr. Boone and his supporters as it relates to his community commitments,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. “His illegal trafficking activity presents the picture of an individual who was able to compartmentalize his behavior, perhaps.”

Boone said his business will remain open, even while he is in prison. He said he now makes sure the ivory he deals with has proper documentation and that his business has focused recently on mammoth ivory.

The narwhal tusks and whale teeth sold on his website are all legal, he said.

Boone, a graduate of Drug Court in Jefferson County, said he attends Drug Court each week and talks with recovering addicts.

He also said he often attends meetings and visits the Jefferson County jail to talk to recovering addicts and people addicted to drugs.

“My message is, don’t do drugs and don’t have flexible ethics,” he said. “The happy ending is I’m not the person I was in 2008, 2009 and 2011.”


Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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