More Than One Million Dollars Worth Of Illegal Ivory Discovered For Sale At Carlton Gallery In La Jolla, California; Charges Filed

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Criminal charges have been filed against the Carlton Gallery in La Jolla, its owner Victor Hyman Cohen, and employee Sheldon Miles Kupersmith, for trafficking ivory in defiance of California law.

More than 300 pieces of ivory and items containing ivory, valued at more than $1.3 million dollars, were recently seized from the gallery and its warehouse.

According to San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott, this is largest seizure of ivory products by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife since a state law banning their sale took effect in 2016.

“A law is just a law if it’s not enforced, and funded,” California Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins of San Diego said in a statementwho authored the legislation banning the sale of nearly all ivory in the state. “In 2016, the Legislature and the Governor gave the Department of Fish and Wildlife the resources needed to investigate illegal ivory sales, and they have responded by rooting out criminals who profit from the brutal killing of elephants and other animals.”

The investigation into Carlton Gallery began in May 2017, when wildlife officers from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Trafficking Unit observed two art-deco sculptures that appeared to be ivory in the gallery’s Prospect Street display window. In December 2017 and March 2018, wildlife officers returned and observed additional items that appeared to contain ivory.

In a sting operation conducted on May 1st, undercover wildlife officers purchased an ivory sculpture from Kupersmith, who offered to sell the officers three other sculptures containing ivory. Wildlife officers obtained and executed a search warrant later that day and seized 146 items containing ivory from the gallery.

The investigators subsequently seized 192 additional pieces of ivory from a warehouse. Most of the items contained ivory from elephants, while some contained ivory from the teeth of hippopotamus.

“Ivory trafficking is an illegal and reprehensible business that encourages the senseless slaughter of elephants and other endangered species,” said City Attorney Elliott. “I hope this prosecution sends a strong message to anyone who sells or is thinking about selling ivory on the black market in San Diego: We will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

The 2016 ban, which can be found in California Fish and Game Code section 2202, encompasses the teeth and tusks of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale and narwhal, as well as rhinoceros’ horn, regardless of whether it is raw, worked or powdered, or from a store or a private collection. Under the law, advertising the sale of any items containing ivory is also prohibited.

Two types of ivory products are exempted from the ban: musical instrument that are made of less than 20% ivory and were manufactured no later than 1975, and antiques that are made of less than 5% ivory and are more than 100 years old. Neither exception applies to the items seized from the Carlton Gallery.

As per KGTV, a first-time offense of the ban is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $40,000.

Kupersmith was charged with eight counts of the purchase and sale of ivory and rhinoceros’ horn, and eight counts of the unlawful importing, possession and sale of a specified species.

Cohen and the Carlton Gallery are charged with 11 counts of each.

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