Feds: Philly shop owner smuggled elephant ivory

The owner of a Philadelphia African art store, 68-year-old Victor Gordon, is charged with smuggling elephant ivory and selling it at his shop.

July 26, 2011 8:23:27 AM PDT
The owner of a Philadelphia African art store has been arrested and charged with smuggling elephant ivory.

Victor Gordon, 68, was arrested on Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York says agents seized one ton of ivory, making it one of the largest seizures on record in the United States.

According to an indictment, Gordon paid a co-conspirator to travel to Africa and purchase raw elephant ivory and have it specially carved.

Investigators say Gordon would provide an unnamed co-conspirator with photographs or other depictions of ivory carvings, which served as templates for the ivory carvers in Africa.

Gordon allegedly also told the co-conspirator to stain or dye the elephant ivory so it would appear old.

Then, the indictment alleges, Gordon financed the transport of the ivory from Africa to the United States through JFK Airport in New York. The ivory was then sold at his store in Philadelphia, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Investigators say the ivory in this case came from the hardest-hit poaching regions of West and Central Africa.

If convicted, Gordon faces 20 years in prison.

In a statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office said African elephants are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ("CITES"), an international treaty that entered into force in 1975 to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct due to international trade.

The African elephant is also listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the government's ongoing investigation into the importation of elephant ivory from Africa into the United States has already resulted in the convictions of eight people.