Mary Jo Garlo, 60, and Peter Francese, 70, owners of Great American Auction Service, Inc., Hyde Park, New York, failed to obtain a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) before offering in an auction two stools made of elephant feet. On April 10, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that the pair had been arrested and charged with illegal commercialization of wildlife.
New York law prohibits the sale of elephant parts (including ivory) without first obtaining permits, which can be obtained only for items that predate the listing of the elephant as an endangered species in 1978.
According to Schneiderman, after receiving a complaint of illegal items being offered for sale in June 2012 at Great American Auction Service, DEC officials reviewed the on-line catalog and found the two elephant footstools advertised for auction. After determining that the defendants did not have a permit to sell elephant parts, a DEC investigator visited the auction house, confirming that the defendants owned the stools and planned to offer them at auction later that day.
The stools were confiscated and taken to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City for examination. It was confirmed that the stools were made from the feet of an African elephant (Loxodonta africana), which has been listed as an endangered species since 1978.
Illegal commercialization of wildlife is an unclassified misdemeanor. If convicted of the charges, the defendants face fines of $5000 each and up to one year in jail.
Lorenzo Angelino, the attorney for the married pair, told the Poughkeepsie Journal that Garlo and Francese “were aware of endangered species laws [but] were unaware of the specific state Department of Environmental Conservation permit required to sell products made from African elephants before 1978.”
Angelino told the paper, “They’ve been in the antiques business for thirty-five years, and they have never had issues before,” adding that the couple has now obtained the permit to sell the more-than-100-year-old stools, but that the stools had not been returned to them.
For information on obtaining permits regarding antiques and endangered species, call the DEC’s Special Licenses Unit at (518) 402-8985 or check the Web site (www.dec.ny.gov).
Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest