Chinatown Shop Charged with Illegal Ivory Sales

Items made of ivory were seized in a statewide inspection of illegal sales after a ban took effect in 2016.

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

The owner and two employees of a store in Chinatown have been charged with the illegal possession and sale of ivory, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced this week.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) busted Lovell’s Antique Gallery, on Grant Avenue near California Street, and found 32 items appearing to be made of ivory. Undercover officers from the agency bought a statuette advertised as ivory for $240 in December 2016, prosecutors say Wednesday.

Store manager Yesika Becerra, 33, and salesperson Vivian Wei Zhao, 58, each pled not guilty on Thursday to a single charge of selling ivory. The arraignment of the 56-year-old owner and El Cerrito resident Abraham Magidish has not yet been set, but the store’s corporate parent, ALAER-90 Inc., pled not guilty on Wednesday.

“The sale of ivory has decimated the elephant population around the world,” District Attorney George Gascón says in a statement. “By eliminating the market for ivory at home, we can play a role in reducing demand and the likelihood that these majestic animals will be hunted abroad.”

At the time, CDFW announced that two San Francisco locations were in violation after seizing a solid bone pagoda, rhinoceros horn bracelet, whale teeth, carved tusks, and ivory chess sets and statuettes. The total value was estimated at more than $500,000.

CDFW officials had also intercepted mammoth ivory and items made of python skin in Los Angeles and Alameda counties, respectively, shipped from Indonesia. A California law banning the sale of all ivory in the state took effect July 1, 2016.

The charges against Lovell’s come about one month after the Trump administration indicated it would reverse a President Barack Obama-era ban on importing elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe. A couple days of public outcry spurred the announcement that the ban would remain in place until a review is complete.

A pretrial date for the Chinatown store is scheduled for January 5th, 2018.

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