Couple allegedly sold whale, turtle bone jewelry
A Wahiawa couple is accused of selling jewelry made from humpback whale and green sea turtle bones at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, at the main exchange on Schofield Barracks and from their home, according to an indictment a federal grand jury returned Wednesday.
The indictment says Liliani and Semisi “James” Muti imported the jewelry without the required permits from Tonga and exported some to at least one buyer in Japan.
The U.S. Endangered Species Act prohibits trading or possessing humpback whale or green sea turtle specimens without the express permission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another law prohibits the sale of wildlife with a market value greater that $350 in violation of any U.S. regulation, law or treaty. The maximum penalties for violations are five years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
The National Marine Fisheries Service lists as endangered nearly all green sea turtle species and five of 14 humpback whale species.
According to the indictment, the Mutis sold the whale and turtle bone jewelry through their company Old Hawaii Arts & Crafts LLC.
State business records list the Mutis’ Wahiawa home as the company’s address.
The federal indictment says the Mutis have been importing jewelry made from humpback whale bones and green sea turtle bones from their native Tonga since around 2010, and received a shipment of about 590 items of jewelry made from humpback whale bones in May 2016.
The Mutis sent 28 jewelry items made from humpback whale bones to a buyer in Japan in November 2015 for $2,518 and another 105 jewelry items made from humpback whale and green sea turtle bones to the same buyer in July 2016 for $5,400. The indictment also says the Mutis sold 10 items of jewelry made from humpback whale bones to undercover law enforcement officers last December for $1,300.