Manhattan Antique Store Charged For Illegal Ivory Trade

The owner of a Manhattan-based antiques store, along with his corporation, was charged with multiple felonies in connection with illegal ivory sales in New York County Criminal Court Wednesday, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Alexander Sakhai and Alexander’s Antiques Inc., of 1050 Second Ave., were each charged with two counts of Illegal Commercialization of Fish, Shellfish, Crustaceans and Wildlife, a class E felony, and two counts Illegal Commercialization of Fish, Shellfish, Crustaceans and Wildlife, a class D felony.

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs), working undercover on a tip, purchased an illegal ivory item from the store in July earlier this year. The item was brought to the American Museum of Natural History for morphological analysis, and experts there determined that the piece was carved from authentic elephant ivory.

A search warrant executed on July 21 by ECOs from DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit revealed that the store was selling approximately 130 illegal ivory items in excess of $25,000. As part of the search warrant, the items were confiscated.

“Our ECOs are dedicated to cracking down on the illegal market for ivory and bringing an end to the senseless slaughtering of the world’s elephants,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “This sends a clear message that we will not allow this trade to continue in New York. I commend the work of New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance and his staff for their swift actions in prosecuting this immoral criminal activity.”

As part of the plea agreement entered today, Alexander’s Antiques Inc. agreed to donate $60,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society to help with its efforts to end the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa. Alexander’s Antiques Inc. will also forfeit more than 100 ivory articles to New York State.

Sakhai also plead guilty to the violation of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife, and the corporation plead guilty to the E felony of illegal Commercialization of Elephant Ivory.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said: “We must all do our part to protect this important species from extinction. A 2016 study found that there are only about 350,000 African Savana elephants left and calculated a decline of approximately 30 percent in the Savanna elephant population in less than a decade. As this case demonstrates, prosecuting those involved in the trafficking and sale of elephant ivory remains a top priority for my Office. Of course, we cannot accomplish this work alone, and I would like to thank our partners at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for their assistance with these investigations. We will continue to work together until the ivory trade in New York is shut down for good.”

In August, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo commemorated the ceremonial crushing of nearly two tons of confiscated illegal ivory valued at more than $8.5 million in an event hosted by DEC, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Tiffany and Co. in Central Park. Dozens of international and national conservation organizations joined the ivory crush to send a strong message to the world that New York State and its partners will work tirelessly to end wildlife crimes that threaten to wipe out African elephants and a host of other species around the globe.

Elephants are listed as a threatened species worldwide and the sale of more than $1,500 worth of products made from elephant ivory without having first obtained a DEC license or permit is a felony. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo introduced and signed a new law in 2014 that effectively banned the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhinoceros horns, and strengthened the criminal and civil penalties for buyers and sellers whose actions are endangering elephant and rhinoceros populations worldwide. The law allowed for limited exceptions on product, such as antiques demonstrated to be at least 100 years old and containing less than 20 percent of ivory.