Prominent Auctioneer Lied About Selling Wildlife Products
In this week’s crime blotter, getting to the bottom of a smuggling network involving ivory, rhino horn, and fake customs reports.
A prominent Beverly Hills auction house executive—whose clients include actor Nicholas Cage—pleaded guilty to smuggling wildlife products worth one million dollars and covering up the illegal sales, federal prosecutors revealed earlier this week.
According to prosecutors, Joseph Chait, a senior auction administrator at I.M. Chait Gallery/Auctioneers, sold items made from rhino horn, elephant ivory, and coral but stated on customs forms that they were made from either bone, wood, or plastic.
In one instance, Chait sold a rhino horn carving for $230,000. On an invoice he fabricated, he wrote that the item cost $108 and was made of plastic. He also received wildlife products that were shipped into the U.S. without declaring them.
Trade in horn and ivory is fueling the decimation