$2M in illegal underground ivory found in Manhattan

Elephants made from illegal ivory tusks.

It’s not hard to buy illegal ivory on the streets of New York City.

In fact, two men hawked hundreds of trinkets made from the tusks of dead, poached elephants out of two Midtown stores for years.

Today, law enforcement officials announced they cleared both shops of ivory products, which amounted to the largest amount of black-market ivory loot in three decades.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said two men pleaded guilty to illegally selling the ivory. Their inventory included more than $2 million worth of ivory tusks, statues, Buddhas, intricate trinkets and jewelry.

“The black market for ivory is booming,” Vance said. “It’s booming here.”

Mukesh Gupta, 67, and Johnson Jung-Chien Lu, 56, pleaded guilty Thursday in a plea deal that kept them out of jail. But they must pay tens of thousands in fines.

Gupta sold his wares out of Raja Jewels on 7 West 45th Street, and Lu sold out of New York Jewelry Mart at 26 West 46th Street, according to Vance.

The ivory was likely poached illegally from elephants from Central and East Africa, officials said. The items themselves were made in Hong Kong.

They made their way to Midtown, where customers likely had no idea they were buying illegal products, officials said.

It is illegal under state law to sell or offer for sale anything made of endangered or threatened wildlife species, Vance said. However, a vendor can sell ivory if they have a permit from the state proving that the ivory pre-dates the species being on the Endangered Species list.

But the two men did not have permits, Vance said. Gupta will pay $45,000, and Lu $10,000, to the Wildlife Conservation Society to use to train people protecting the elephant population. They also forfeited the nearly $2 million in profits they made from the sales.

Both defendants’ attorneys stressed to Metro that the problem was only a
licensing issue, which is now, after the pleas, fully resolved.

“He was absent a license,” Ronald Russo, attorney for Lu, said. “That was his crime.”

Poaching a growing problem

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora reported in June that elephant poaching is the worst it’s been in a decade. Between 2002 and 2006, four out of every 10 dead elephants worldwide were poached, according to the district attorney’s office, but now that number is eight out of 10. The tusks are used to make items like piano keys and jewelry.

Peter Fanelli at the state Department of Environmental Conservation said the DEC routinely arrests people for similar crimes, but that this was “by far the largest in size and value we have made in the last three decades.”

New York’s animals are also illegally poached, officials said. Copperhead snakes, snapping turtle eggs and black bear gallbladders are all shipped to Asia, Fanelli said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.