Montco man gets prison for smuggling elephant ivory

Some of the items seized that Gordon helped smuggle from Africa.
Some of the items seized that Gordon helped smuggle from Africa. (U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York)
Posted: June 06, 2014

A Montgomery County man was sentenced to 30 months in prison Wednesday for smuggling approximately one ton of elephant ivory into the United States from Africa.

U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto, sitting in Brooklyn, N.Y., also ordered Victor Gordon, 71, of Penn Valley, to pay a $7,500 fine, forfeit $150,000 he was estimated to have made from selling ivory, and surrender the ivory that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents seized from his African art store in Philadelphia. Authorities called it one of the largest U.S. seizures of elephant ivory.

Trading in body parts of endangered animal species, including African elephants, has been illegal in the U.S. for decades.

The Fish and Wildlife Service learned of Gordon's illegal trade during a separate investigation into ivory smuggling by African immigrants in New York. Eight people were convicted on smuggling and other charges in that case, according to the government's sentencing memorandum in Gordon's case. In 2009, agents went to Gordon's business, Victor Gordon Enterprises, 31 N. Third St., and found 428 carved ivory tusks and ivory carvings art pieces worth at least $400,000, court documents said.

Besides buying ivory from smugglers, Gordon sent a Liberian immigrant named Abutu Sherif to Gabon four times between 2006 and 2009, spending thousands of dollars for his plane and for the purchase of ivory, the records show.

"To smuggle the ivory, Sherif painted the carvings black so as to make them appear to be ebony wood," a sentencing memorandum said. "He also cut large tusks into sections, which could be more easily hidden and reassembled in the United States."

Gordon, who was indicted in 2011, pleaded guilty to a single count of smuggling ivory in 2012. His attorney, Daniel-Paul Alva, said Gordon was disappointed with the sentence. "He knows he was wrong," Alva said, but had hoped a lifetime of being law-abiding and "doing good deeds" would have brought a shorter sentence.

The case was heard in New York because the ivory was brought into the United States through John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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