Anchorage man sentenced for theft of woolly mammoth tusk

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that an Anchorage man has been sentenced to federal prison after he and a co-conspirator stole a fossilized woolly mammoth tusk from an Anchorage BLM museum, and then cut the tusk into pieces and sold them for profit.

Martin Thornley Elze, 52, of Anchorage, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason, to serve 33 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. In December 2018, Elze pleaded guilty to one count of removal of a paleontological resource. As part of his sentence, Elze was also ordered to pay $8,385.82 in restitution to the Campbell Creek Science Center.

According to court documents, Elze and his co-conspirator, Gary Lynn Boyd, stole a mammoth tusk, which is an irreplaceable paleontological resource that was displayed at the Campbell Creek Science Center (CCSC), a BLM museum. Specifically, on March 7, 2018, Elze and Boyd targeted the tusk in advance by visiting the CCSC and asked the staff specific questions about the weight and authenticity of the tusk. Elze and Boyd returned to CCSC the next night, on March 8, 2018, when it was closed. Boyd used a rock to break a window, causing $1,385.22 in damage, to unlawfully open a door at the CCSC. After Boyd removed the tusk from the CCSC, he and Elze worked together to carry away the tusk, which was caught on the museum’s video surveillance system.

The investigation revealed that Elze committed this crime for pecuniary gain. Elze and Boyd cut the mammoth tusk into pieces and sold them for profit. As such, the mammoth tusk was never returned to the BLM. According to court documents, when the tusk was in its original condition, prior to being plundered and cleaved, it was worth approximately $7,000 to $9,000.

The investigation further revealed that, in June 2018, and while in custody due to an unrelated state prosecution, Elze attempted to influence a witness to make materially false statements to the federal grand jury hoping it would shield him from prosecution.

Boyd is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, May 15, at 1:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse. In January 2019, Boyd pleaded guilty to one count of removal of a paleontological resource.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Office of Law Enforcement and Security, and the Anchorage Police Department (APD) conducted the joint investigation leading to the successful prosecution of this case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonas M. Walker.