Anchorage antique store owner convicted of illegally buying, selling walrus ivory, tax evasion
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The owner of an Anchorage antique store had pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally trafficking in walrus ivory and tax evasion, and will pay a roughly $400,000 fine.
Walter Earl, 76, owns The Antique Gallery, located in Downtown Anchorage. He was charged at the federal level last year for illegally buying and selling walrus ivory and for failing to accurately report his income to the IRS.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Alaska said in a press release that Earl has been convicted, and was sentenced on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to three federal counts of wildlife trafficking and one count of tax evasion, according to the release.
In addition to the $185,000 he will pay in fines and the $216,054 in restitution to the IRS, Earl will serve six months of home confinement and will forfeit 50 walrus tusks and other illegal marine mammal parts.
According to an April 2020 press release about the charges from the Justice Department, Earl was accused of specifically trafficking illegal walrus ivory on three separate occasions in 2017. He illegally purchased and sold walrus ivory head mounts, the release stated at the time.
“Earl then tried to conceal the illegal nature of his activities by falsifying documents and lying to purchasers about the ivory’s source,” the release states. “The information alleges that Earl falsely claimed the ivory was “Pre-Act,” and falsely claimed he was legally allowed to purchase the walrus ivory because he employed Alaska Natives. It is also alleged that, as part of his scheme to illegally buy and sell walrus ivory, Earl illegally purchased more than 50 walrus tusks that he intended to sell.”
In Wednesday’s announcement of his conviction and sentencing, the Justice Department wrote that Earl said the ivory was legal to purchase and sell “due to its age.” The investigation revealed he had kept the more than 50 walrus tusks as inventory for future illegal sales.
Additionally, Wednesday’s press release states Earl intentionally did not file individual income tax returns from 2013-2017. His gross income included the income from his store, which was $679,245 over that five-year period.
“To avoid creating records of revenue and income, Earl kept inadequate business records, primarily used cash and structured transactions at various financial institutions to sidestep banking reporting requirements,” the release states. “He also instructed his employees not to report the income they earned.”
This was a joint investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also assisted.
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