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Ivory smuggler from Nantucket sentenced to jail

Man made living making and selling scrimshaw

BOSTON – A Nantucket, Mass., resident, was sentenced today in federal court on multiple counts of conspiracy, smuggling, and making false statements to federal agents relating to the illegal importation of sperm whale ivory which is used in the trade. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Charles Manghis, 56, was sentenced to 30 days of intermittent confinement at the Barnstable (Mass.) Jail and House of Correction to be followed by two years of probation with the first six months to be served as home detention with electronic monitoring. He must also pay a $50,000 fine. The court also indicated it would enter a preliminary order of forfeiture relating to numerous pieces of whale ivory that were seized from Manghis’s home and business in 2005. Manghis was convicted in January of 2010 after a bench trial.

“We are pleased that the court recognized that Mr. Manghis did not simply commit regulatory offenses, but rather, he violated important federal wildlife protection laws,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, District of Massachusetts. “The prohibitions against smuggling wildlife were enacted to do exactly what they did in this case - protect some of nature’s most precious and vulnerable species. I hope that this prosecution reminds the public that there are serious consequences for anyone who exploits wildlife for their own financial gain.”

"Homeland Security Investigations, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who exploit threatened species for lucrative profits in total disregard of the law," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Boston. "Today's sentence should serve as a stern warning to poachers and ivory smugglers that we will put you out of business — the callous disregard for protected species will not be tolerated."

Acting Special Agent in Charge of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement, Northeast Region, Timothy J. Donovan said, “NOAA’s Office of Enforcement appreciates the U.S. Attorney’s support and her recognition of the seriousness of the enforcement of federal statutes that protect our endangered and threatened wildlife.”

Evidence presented during trial included that Manghis conspired with his codefendant, Andrei Mikhalyov, to purchase and smuggle multiple shipments of sperm whale ivory from Ukraine, where Mikhalyov was located, into the United States. There were multiple electronic mailings detailing the negotiations between Manghis and Mikhalyov including shipping the items purchased by Manghis to a third party in California. Manghis and Mikhalyov also discussed methods of smuggling the items out of Ukraine, including bribing Ukranian government officials. Manghis was anxious to obtain the sperm whale teeth, which he used in his scrimshaw business, because of the scarcity and high price of these items after the passage of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the early 1970's. Sperm whales are protected internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Both Ukraine and the United States are signatories to the convention which strictly regulates any commercial activity involving endangered wildlife.

Evidence presented at the trial also showed that Manghis made multiple false statements to federal agents. First, he falsely claimed he purchased the ivory from a California seller and not from the Ukranian dealer. Later, when agents went to Manghis’s home to seize the ivory pursuant to a search warrant, Manghis falsely claimed he no longer possessed any of the items. Agents eventually found the items hidden in the basement.

The case was investigated by ICE HSI; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement; NOAA, Office of Law Enforcement; Nantucket Police Department; U.S. Coast Guard; and the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini, Chief of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.