SF Chinatown store owner, parent company, employees charged with illegal ivory sales

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) The owner, parent company and two employees of a store in San 
Francisco's Chinatown have been charged in connection with the illegal sale of ivory following a bust by state Fish and Wildlife officials late last year, according to the district attorney's office.

Abraham Magadish, a 56-year-old El Cerrito resident and the owner of Lovell's Gallery at 625 Grant Ave., and ALAER-90 Inc., the corporate parent of Lovell's, have been charged with one count of sales and two counts of illegal possession for sale of ivory.

Gallery manager Yesika Becerra, a 33-year-old San Francisco resident, and salesperson Vivian Wei Zhao, a 58-year-old San Francisco resident, were each charged with one count of ivory sales.

The charges are connected to a Dec. 15, 2016, bust by state Fish and Wildlife officers who made an undercover buy of a statuette advertised as ivory for $240.

The undercover officers made the purchase with marked and photographed $20 bills. Fish and Wildlife inspectors then entered the store and seized 32 items appearing to be ivory, according to court records.

The bust was part of a wave of inspections on several businesses in San Francisco.

Fish and Wildlife officials reported at the time that they found two businesses with significant violations and seized items including a solid bone pagoda and a rhinoceros horn bracelet, as well as statuettes made up partially or entirely of ivory and items including whale teeth, ivory chess 
sets and carved tusks labeled as mammoth ivory.

The seized items from the two businesses were reported to be valued at more than $500,000.

"The sale of ivory has decimated the elephant population around the world," District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement. "By eliminating the market for ivory at home, we can play a role in reducing demand and the likelihood that these majestic animals will be hunted abroad."

ALAER-90 Inc. was arraigned today at the Hall of Justice and entered a not guilty plea, while Zhao and Becerra, who surrendered on Friday, will be arraigned Thursday. No arraignment date has been set for Magadish.

A store employee who answered the phone at Lovell's said the owner would be away for "several months" and was not available to comment on the charges. The employee declined to comment herself.

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