LOS ANGELES —City Attorney Mike Feuer has announced that his office has successfully secured a conviction and sentence including significant fines, community service and probation against an antiques merchant for illegally selling exotic narwhal ivory tusks.
“Selling ivory is not only illegal, it’s immoral,” said Feuer. "The ivory trade is abominable, with devastating consequences that imperil threatened species like the narwhal. This prosecution and conviction send the strong message that those who may think of selling ivory tusks will be held accountable. I also want to thank our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for their close partnership on this important issue."
"California is doing its part to stop trafficking of the world's land and ocean dwelling wildlife species that have ivory," said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. "We are pleased to see the LA City Attorney prosecute ivory cases as vigorously as the members of our Wildlife Trafficking Unit can investigate the sale of ivory."
Antonio’s Bella Casa, Inc., and its owner Anthony James Buccola, were each found guilty of two criminal counts of selling ivory. Buccola was sentenced to 36 months of probation, 200 hours of community service or 20 days of County jail, a fine of $20,507 including penalty assessments, and forfeiture of the Narwhal tusks. The company was also placed on 36 months of probation, ordered to pay the same fine.
In November, 2016, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) received information regarding the alleged unlawful commercial sale of ivory at a retail antique store located on La Cienega Boulevard. On December 1, 2016, while canvassing the area, they visited Antonio’s Bella Casa, and saw two narwhal tusks on display. In January, 2017, these tusks were sold to an undercover CDFW Warden for $60,000. The narwhal tusks measured approximately 79 and 87 inches each. Narwhals are a medium sized whale found in the Arctic waters outside Canada and Greenland. Narwhals are rare mammals considered "near threatened" with a total worldwide population of only 50,000, with many countries adopting strict quotas or bans on importation of tusks.
Assembly Bill 96, authored in 2015 by then Assembly Speaker and currently Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), made it unlawful to purchase, sell, offer for sale, possess with intent to sell or import with intent to sell ivory or rhinoceros horn, except as specified. A first-time violation of this law is a misdemeanor subject to specified criminal penalties and fines between $1,000 and $40,000, depending upon the value of the item.
Deputy City Attorney Ella Fernandez of the City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit successfully prosecuted the case.