New York Antique Dealers Busted for Illegal $4.5 Million Ivory Operation

It's the largest ivory seizure in New York history.

Courtesy Ishara S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Image.
Courtesy Ishara S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Image.

Irving and Samuel Morano, owners of the Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques store in midtown Manhattan, and Victor Zilberman, a shop salesman, were indicted this Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court for an operation that could give Hollywood blockbusters a run for their money. Authorities discovered over $4.5 million worth of savanna elephant tusk art and various pieces of ivory at the antiques shop.

In a press statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that “as the international elephant population hovers near extinction, too many ivory traders continue to profit from the slaughter of these beautiful, defenseless animals.”

The New York Times reports that the prosecutors were able to bust the antiques dealers through undercover investigators working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. One of the men bought a sculpture that was allegedly made from a mammoth’s tusk for $2,000 in November of last year, but a test of the object revealed that the figurine was, in fact, crafted out of ivory.

Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antique Store. Courtesy Google Maps.

Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antique Store. Courtesy Google Maps.

The evidence enabled the team to secure a search warrant to pursue their investigation. On December 28, officials found over a hundred ivory objects, including a seven-foot-long elephant tusk, according to the District Attorney’s report. The objects will be destroyed on World Elephant Day next August.

The three men allegedly involved in the scheme are charged for wildlife commercialization, but pleaded not guilty.

Basil Seggos, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation, said in a statement that his bureau will continue to “crack down on illegal ivory” in the state of New York. “With today’s action, we are sending a strong message to poachers, traffickers, and dealers that we are committed to stopping this heinous activity.”


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