Ivory tusks are displayed after being confiscated by Hong Kong Customs in Hong Kong.
A Wood County man who sold Chinese antiques overseas admitted in federal court Wednesday that he shipped an elephant ivory carving without labeling it as such.
Mark St. John, 53, of Northwood pleaded guilty to the offense of false labeling of an elephant ivory shipment before U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary. The federal charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Gene Crawford, an assistant U.S. attorney, said St. John shipped an ivory carving to China through the U.S. Postal Service on June 1, 2011, but filled out paperwork saying the package contained a wooden carved vase and small stand valued at $40. An inspector with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Chicago inspected the package June 6, 2011, and found it instead contained the ivory carving, which St. John had sold on eBay for $635, Mr. Crawford said.
“St. John is a frequent international exporter of elephant ivory and other animal products, yet there is no record of him acquiring the appropriate licenses or paying the appropriate inspection fees and other fees for lawful dealings in these items,” Mr. Crawford told the court.
Before entering his guilty plea, St. John told the court he worked for a number of years for Russell’s Tuxedos and then Dunn Chevy-Olds before starting to sell off his extensive collection of Chinese antiques.
Asked to explain why he was in court, St. John said he had sold the ivory carving through an eBay auction.
“The papers were not filled out as they should have been filled out, and that was a law that I was not aware of, but it is a law,” he said.
Judge Zouhary scheduled sentencing for Aug. 19. He allowed St. John to remain free on a $10,000 bond.
Mr. Crawford said afterward that buying and selling certain animal products, including those made of elephant ivory, is regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those in doubt about their obligations under the law should refer to the agency’s Web site, fws.gov.
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