The three brothers who own midtown antiques store Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques have been charged with illegal commercialization of wildlife for allegedly possessing $4.5 million worth of ivory. They were arraigned this morning and released without bail, according to the DA.
The seizure of the ivory is the largest in New York state history, and investigators told DNA Info that it was taken from a dozen endangered African elephants, and includes two pairs of un-carved tusks that are between five to seven feet tall.
“The worldwide elephant population is hanging in the balance. With today’s action, we are sending a strong message to poachers, traffickers, and dealers that we are committed to stopping this heinous activity.” Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement.
Though selling antique elephant ivory used to be legal, in 2014, the laws changed making the practice illegal (with a few exceptions that do not apply in this case). One of the owners allegedly told undercover officers that the ivory his store was selling was mammoth, but DEC investigators determined it was actually elephant. All of the ivory will be destroyed as part of the DEC’s “Ivory Crush” on World Elephant Day, August 2017.
The store did not return DNA Info’s request for comment. [DNA Info]