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1 Ton Elephant Ivory: Phila. Art Dealer Busted

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 27, 2011 9:50 AM

If you think about the phrase "ivory smuggling," "Philadelphia" is not the first locale that probably comes to your mind. Victor Gordon, the owner of a Philadelphia African art store, was arrested for illegally importing African ivory.

Gordon paid another man to travel to Africa to get elephant ivory. The elephant ivory was then carved to Gordon's specifications, and then stained and dyed to make it appear older than it really was, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The ivory was smuggled through New York's JFK International Airport, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Gordon was arrested and charged with 10 counts, including conspiracy and smuggling. If convicted, he could spend up to 20 years behind bars, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Federal agents had reportedly seized about one ton of ivory from his store.

What are some laws that prohibit ivory trade in the United States? The African Elephant Conservation Act, which was passed in 1998, gives the U.S. government the discretion to prohibit or limit ivory imports. As a result, the United States banned import of African elephant ivory in 1989, but it is still legal to buy, sell, and transport African elephant ivory that came into the U.S. or was purchased before the ban took place.

This is probably why Gordon tried to go to great lengths to disguise his ivory as older than it really was - as it wouldn't be illegal for him to be selling genuine African ivory if it had been purchased before 1989.

Victor Gordon, 68, was arraigned in federal court in New York over the charges of ivory smuggling for his Philadelphia shop. Apparently he had been smuggling elephant ivory for years, between May 2006 and April 2009, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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