$4.5M of Illegal Elephant Tusks Seized in Midtown Store (New York City)


Ben Fractenberg, DNAInfo

Date Published


See link for photo and a link to press release by DEC.

The biggest ever elephant tusk seizure in New York State has snared three Midtown antique dealers, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Investigators recovered more than $4.5 million in ivory from Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques at 10 W. 57th St. It was taken from more than a dozen endangered African elephants.

The ivory included two pairs of un-carved tusks standing between 5 and 7 feet tall, officials said Thursday.

“The conduct alleged in this case is abhorrent,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a statement.

“As the international elephant population hovers near extinction, too many ivory traders continue to profit from the slaughter of these beautiful, defenseless animals.

“My office and our DEC partners will do everything we can locally to protect this endangered species and end this moral, ecological and geopolitical crisis.”

The three brothers who own the store, Irving Morano, 46, Samuel Morano, 48, and Victor Zilberman, 62, were charged with felony illegal commercialization of wildlife after being indicted in New York State Supreme Court.

They were arraigned Thursday morning and released without bail, according to the DA’s office.

New restrictions were placed on the sale of elephant ivory in 2014 and, though the antique dealers had a previous license to sell the ivory, the new rules made it illegal for them to continue to hawk it.

Undercover officers started to purchase ivory from the store starting on Nov. 30, 2015, officials said.

Zilberman falsely told the undercover officers that the carving was mammoth ivory, but DEC investigators analyzed it and determined it was from an elephant, prosecutors added.

A search warrant later led to the recovery of about 126 pieces of ivory.

There are only about 352,000 elephants left on the African savanna, according to officials.

There were 100,000 elephants killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012, advocates added.

“We have nothing [to say],” a store employee said when reached for comment.

The owners are due back in court on Oct. 6.