Two San Francisco shops at center of statewide ivory bust

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Two Bay Area businesses are facing criminal charges after authorities say they were selling jewelry statuettes made with ivory, which is illegal after a new law went into effect in July.

Investigators aren't naming names yet, but they say they found two shops selling ivory well after the state's ivory ban became law.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigators seized dozens of pieces in San Francisco's Chinatown, ranging from jewelry to statuettes and they believe all of them are made of ivory.

The new law prohibiting the selling, buying and trading of ivory took effect July 1. "$500,000 worth of ivory so, we thought that was a pretty egregious amount of ivory to be selling and we're going to proceed with an investigation that will likely be prosecuted here at the district attorney's office," California Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Patrick Foy said.

The bust goes beyond the Bay Area as well. Inspectors confiscated nearly 400 pieces of ivory jewelry at an air cargo terminal at LAX.

For shop owners who've been selling ivory for years, the new law has been quite an adjustment. Lovell's on Grant Street was one of dozens of stores U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigators visited last week.

However, the owner says he now only carries pieces made of plastic or bone after selling all of his ivory before the ban. "I sold some of mine 20 cents on the dollar, some of them I sold below my cost just to get rid of it because I know it's not going to be anything anymore," store owner Abraham Magidish said.

As for those who were found in violation, they could face a year in jail and up to a $50,000 fine.
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