La Jolla gallery owner, employee convicted in ivory trafficking case

SAN DIEGO — The Carlton Gallery in La Jolla, its owner and an employee were ordered to pay a total of $210,000 in fines for trafficking $1.3 million in illegal ivory, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott announced Tuesday.

Gallery owner Victor Hyman Cohen was convicted of 11 counts of ivory trafficking while salesman Sheldon Miles Kupersmith was convicted of eight counts. The gallery and Cohen were ordered to pay $75,000 each in fines, while Kupersmith must pay $60,000 in fines, according to Elliott’s office, which said the fines are the largest for ivory trafficking in state history.

Cohen and Kupersmith were also placed on three years probation and must complete 200 hours of community service at the San Diego Zoo by the end of the year, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

A Carlton Gallery representative declined comment.

“I hope this conviction sends a clear message to anyone considering engaging in the ivory black market, as a buyer or a seller,” Elliott said. “If you try to make a buck from the brutal slaughter of endangered species, you will be prosecuted and held accountable for your crimes.”

Elliott’s office had investigated the Carlton Gallery since May 2017 and performed a sting operation on the business last May 1, with the help of personnel from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officers seized 146 items containing ivory from the gallery and 192 from a nearby warehouse during the sting, authorities said. Kupersmith also sold ivory to undercover officers, according to Elliott’s office.

California banned virtually all ivory sales in 2016 via a state law authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. The ban includes the teeth and tusks of elephants, hippopotamuses, mammoths, mastodons, walruses, warthogs, whales and narwhals and rhinoceros horns.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, a majority of the seized items contained ivory from elephants and some contained ivory from hippopotamus teeth.

Elliott’s office charged Cohen and Kupersmith as individuals

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