Illegal Wildlife Trader In San Diego Must Surrender 200-Piece Ivory Collection & Volunteer 100 Hours For An Animal Welfare Nonprofit

Photos from the San Diego City Attorney’s office

Stephen Shu Wang, who was selling ivory carvings in violation of the law from his Carmel Valley garage to buyers recruited online, must surrender his entire ivory collection.

The 54-year-old criminal was ordered by the Court to give up the collection of ivory artifacts and art pieces that were confiscated from his home by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife in 2020.

Determining the value of the items is difficult, since there is no legal market for their sale or purchase, but altogether, they would likely fetch more than $100,000 on the black market.

Purchasing, trading, selling, or possessing the ivory of elephants and other creatures has long been prohibited by state, federal, and international law.

“The illegal and immoral ivory trade only serves to encourage the senseless slaughter of elephants and other endangered species,” City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said in a statement. “In partnership with the Department of Fish & Wildlife, we will continue to pursue and prosecute anyone who traffics in these black-market goods.”

Wang was charged with 15 misdemeanors: one count of possession of a prohibited animal part for personal gain, seven counts of purchasing and selling ivory in violation of the state Fish & Game code; and seven counts of importing, possessing, or selling prohibited animal parts.

“The cases prosecuted in San Diego are sending a strong message that ivory trafficking will not be tolerated,” stated David Bess, California Department of Fish & Wildlife Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

Wang faced a maximum penalty of eight years in prison, and fines between $40,000 and $320,000. The defense argued for diversion instead, which the court granted, over the objections of the City Attorney’s Office.

In addition to having to surrender his collection of ivory pieces, the judge ordered Wang to remain law abiding for a year, and to complete 100 hours of volunteer work with a nonprofit organization involved in animal conservation. Wang also agreed to a Fourth Amendment waiver, which means authorities may search his home or other premises controlled by him without a warrant to ensure he remains in compliance. If Wang fails to comply with the conditions set forth by the court, the prosecution of his case will resume.

Wang’s activities came to light because he was advertising ivory items for sale online. Undercover Fish & Wildlife agents contacted him, and one met Wang on two occasions, pretending to be a buyer. Once they agreed on the sale of more than two dozen items for the price of $6,500, Fish & Wildlife officers descended on the property to serve a search warrant, finding an estimated 200 items in the house and garage. Authorities determined that most of the objects in Wang’s collection were made of elephant tusks, but a few may have been made from other animals, which is also illegal.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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