A man who illegally sold ivory carvings out of his Carmel Valley garage was forced to forfeit his entire collection instead of facing jail time, city officials said Thursday.
On Monday, Stephen Shu Wang, 54, was court-ordered to surrender more than 200 ivory artifacts and other art pieces he intended to sell in violation of the law, according to a release from the San Diego City Attorney's Office.
In 2020, agents from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered advertisements for ivory items for sale online. On two separate occasions, Wang sold undercover agents thousands of dollars worth of ivory items. These sales sparked a search warrant and seizure of the entire collection.
Wang was charged with 15 misdemeanors in September 2021; one count of possession of a prohibited animal part for personal gain, seven counts of purchasing and selling ivory in violation of the California Fish and Game code; and seven counts of importing, possessing or selling prohibited animal parts, officials said.
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The ivory collection consisted mostly of elephant ivory and included chess sets, a room divider with screens made of ivory, portions of elephant tusks, carvings of the "eight immortals" of Chinese mythology and a geisha statue, among other items.
Authorities determined that most of Wang's collection was ivory from elephants, but did recover walrus and hippopotamus tusks as well.
"Estimating the value of the items is difficult since there is no legal market for their sale or purchase," Leslie Wolf Branscomb with the city attorney's office said, "but altogether, they would likely fetch more than $100,000 on the black market."
Purchasing, selling, possessing or trading nearly all ivory is prohibited by state, federal and international law.
"The illegal and immoral ivory trade only serves to encourage the senseless slaughter of elephants and other endangered species," City Attorney Mara Elliott said. "In partnership with the Department of Fish & Wildlife, we will continue to pursue and prosecute anyone who traffics in these black market goods."
Wang faced eight years in prison and fines between $40,000 and $320,000, however the defense was granted court-ordered diversion, the released stated. In addition to surrendering the ivory collection, Wang must also complete 100 hours of volunteer work with a nonprofit that focuses on animal conservation.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife took control of the artifacts. A spokesperson said the items will be used to develop their ivory DNA database, which aims to identify the source of the ivory.
This case was prosecuted by Deputy City Attorney Jordan DuBois of the city attorney's Nuisance Abatement Unit.