A.G. Schneiderman Announces Arrest Of Auction House Owners For Attempt To Sell Stools Made From Elephant Feet
Defendants Listed Stools For Sale On Auction House Webpage Without DEC Permit; Elephant Listed As Endangered Species Since 1978
Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Protect Endangered Wildlife And Hold Accountable Those Who Flagrantly Violate The Law
NEW YORK -Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Mary Jo Garlo, Peter Francese and their business, Great American Auction Service, Inc., were charged with Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife for offering two stools made from elephant feet for sale at their Dutchess County business. New York State's Environmental Conservation Law prohibits the sale of elephant parts, including ivory, without first obtaining a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Permits can only be obtained for items that pre-date the listing of the elephant as an endangered species in 1978. The defendants each face up to a year in jail and fines of $5,000.
"Without a permit, New York law prohibits the sale of products from animals that are on the federal Threatened or Endangered Species list," Attorney General Scheiderman said."Endangered animals are being slaughtered for profit around the world at an alarming rate, including the well-known African Elephant. My office will continue to enforce New York laws that help to save wildlife and hold accountable those who flagrantly violate the law to make a profit.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martenssaid, "This case is yet another example of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's determination to stop the illegal trade in our state of these magnificent animals and help protect elephant populations worldwide. As we continue to work cooperatively with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, we hope our message resonates throughout this black market space that we will pursue those who willfully disregard our laws that are meant to protect these endangered species."
Garlo, 60, and Francese, 70, periodically hold live auctions of a wide variety of items at their business, located at 4930 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park. In order to advertise merchandise being offered for sale and prior to each event, the defendants post online auction catalogs. The catalogs include pictures of items to be sold, along with descriptions and auction price estimates.
In response to a complaint of illegal items being offered for sale in June of 2012, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police reviewed the married defendants' online catalog and found the two elephant foot stools advertised for auction. After determining the defendants did not have a permit to sell elephant parts, a DEC investigator visited the auction house, confirming the defendants owned the stools and planned to offer them at auction later that day. DEC referred the case to Attorney General Schneiderman's Environmental Crimes Unit for prosecution.
The stools were confiscated and taken to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City for examination by an expert. The museum expert confirmed the stools were made from the feet of an African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) which has been listed as an endangered species since 1978.
Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife is an unclassified misdemeanor. If convicted of the charges, the defendants face fines of five thousand dollars each and up to one year in jail. The defendants surrendered and were arraigned last night in the Town of Hyde Park Justice Court by Justice John M. Kennedy.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Hugh L. McLean of the Environmental Crimes Unit under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief for Criminal Prosecutions Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
The investigation was conducted by Environmental Conservation Investigator Cynthia Harcher of DEC's Division of Law Enforcement, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, under the supervision of Lieutenant John Fitzpatrick, Captain Joseph Schneider and Major Scott Florence. The Attorney General thanks the American Museum of Natural History for assistance in the investigation.
The charges are accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.