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Ukrainian national pleads guilty, sentenced for ivory smuggling conspiracy

BOSTON - In federal court today, a Ukrainian man was convicted and sentenced for conspiring to violate smuggling laws by importing sperm whale ivory into the United States from Ukraine. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Andriy Mikhalyov, 39, of Odessa, Ukraine, pleaded guilty to charges that he and others conspired to buy, sell and smuggle sperm whale teeth, which are used in the creation of scrimshaw, into the U.S.

"One cannot understate the importance that our endangered species laws play in protecting our coastline and its resources," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz. "Our coast is home to some of the most endangered marine mammal species in the world and we will continue to aggressively and proactively investigate anyone who threatens or jeopardizes their existence."

"The prosecution of Andriy Mikhalyov should act as deterrent to poachers and ivory smugglers that ICE HSI and our law enforcement partners are focused on putting them out of business," said Special Agent in Charge Bruce M. Foucart of ICE HSI in Boston. "We will continue using all our law enforcement resources to identify and apprehend those who exploit threatened species for lucrative profits in total disregard of our laws."

"As a federally-protected endangered species, sperm whales are particularly vulnerable to the illegal wildlife trade," said Special Agent in Charge Salvatore Amato of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region. "This case shows the impact of cooperative law enforcement and offers further deterrence to those who seek to illegally profit by plundering protected wildlife."

The evidence in the case established that Mikhalyov conspired with co-defendant Charles Manghis, of Nantucket, and others to buy and sell sperm whale ivory. Manghis, who was convicted at trial last year, was a commercial artist involved in making and selling scrimshaw - ivory pieces that are artistically etched. Sperm whales are a protected endangered species and the commercial use of any part is strictly regulated. Mikhalyov advertised the teeth on an Internet website. The sales involved the exportation of the items from Ukraine and the importation of the same into the U.S. None of the required proper documentation was ever filed for the export or import. Manghis, who was convicted last January, is awaiting sentencing.

Mikhalyov has been in custody since his arrest last year on March 30, 2010. Today, Judge Nancy Gertner sentenced him to the period of time that he has already been incarcerated, amounting to over nine months. Judge Gertner also entered a stipulated judicial order of deportation which will result in the immediate deportation of Mikhalyov to Ukraine.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Timothy Donovan, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement; Bruce Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of ICE HSI in Boston; and Salvatore Amato, Special Agent in Charge, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement in the Northeast Region made the announcement today.

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