Maui man charged with ivory trafficking
He could face up to a year in prison for the misdemeanors
A longtime Maui resident and businessman is charged with trafficking ivory teeth of the endangered white sperm whale, the first to be charged in Hawaii following a year-long investigation.
Howard Konrad, who owns and operates two shops in Lahaina that sell ivory, was charged Wednesday with receiving 31 pounds of ivory teeth and 57 individual ivory teeth on four separate occasions as far back as August 2003 and as recently as April 18.
The charges are misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
The investigation has uncovered documents that allegedly show Konrad purchased sperm whale teeth from a Florida business associate on at least six occasions at a cost of $45,347, according to a court affidavit.
A law enforcement database maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows Konrad does not have, nor has he applied for, a permit allowing him to import sperm whale teeth.
The investigation began in February 2005 after federal agencies learned of international trafficking of sperm whale teeth by an unnamed individual who is cooperating with authorities. The informant told investigators that he sold about half of the sperm whale teeth that he smuggled into the United States to a former director of the Whalers Village Museum in Lahaina who now lives in Florida and Washington state.
The man, who was questioned by investigators and had his homes searched, told officials that he sold most of the sperm whale teeth he purchased from the informant to Konrad, to whom he had sold the museum shops at the Whaler's Village Museum, according to a court affidavit.
Philip Lowenthal, attorney for Konrad, said they have been working with the U.S. Attorney's Office to resolve the matter.
The former director of the whaler's museum who sold Konrad the museum gift shop told Konrad that he had whale teeth to sell and had the permit to do so, Lowenthal said. "Turns out he didn't have a permit."
Lowenthal described Konrad, who is in his 70s, as a reputable businessman for the past 30 years who had an interest in the historical aspects of whaling. Konrad also owns another shop, Lahaina Scrimshaw on Front Street.
Konrad, who lives in Kahului, was arrested April 24 and released on bail. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Honolulu later this month to be arraigned on the charges.
At least six other suspects across the country are being looked at as part of this investigation.
The white sperm whale has been on the endangered species list since June 1970. Anyone seeking to import any wildlife species into the United States must obtain a foreign export permit from the country of origin and a separate permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.