New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

02/22/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/22/2024 12:48

DEC and New York County District Attorney’s Office Announce Conviction of Rockland County Man for Felony Illegal Commercialization of Ivory

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York County District Attorney's (DA) Office today announced the conviction of a Rockland County man for felony illegal commercialization of elephant ivory worth approximately $70,000, concluding a joint investigation that first began in 2020. On Feb. 8, defendant Kenneth Kerner, 59, from the town of Clarkstown pleaded guilty to a class D Felony for the illegal commercialization of ivory over $25,000. The judge's sentence mandated five years' probation, 200 hours of community service, an obligation to donate $10,000 to a wildlife Non-Governmental Organization, relinquishing the three ivory pool cues offered during the illicit sale, and reimbursing the DA's Office for the $15,000 cash. Kerner was also compelled to post a public statement on his social media account to increase awareness and discourage the illegal ivory trade.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "I applaud the hard work, diligence, and dedication of DEC's Division of Law Enforcement and our partners at the New York County District Attorney's Office in investigating this case and bringing the defendant to justice. The fight to protect the world's wild elephant population is ongoing and New York remains on the front lines of that fight as we bust the businesses that fuel the illegal ivory trade and promote, directly or indirectly, the horrific and senseless poaching of these awe-inspiring animals."

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said, "Kenneth Kerner illegally sold and offered for sale $70,000 in pool cues manufactured from elephant ivory. In Manhattan, we will continue to hold those accountable who attempt to take part in the illegal ivory trade. I thank our law enforcement partners for their partnership in this case."

Investigators from the New York County District Attorney's Office and DEC Division of Law Enforcement Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators (BECI) began a joint investigation in summer 2020 into the illegal commercialization of billiard cues made of elephant ivory. The high-end items, with asking prices as high as $45,000, were offered for sale on social media sites. Undercover Investigators contacted the seller and arranged an in-person buy in September 2020. The seller offered three ivory cues for sale, one of them for $15,000. Once the BECI Investigator cleared the sale, Officers with the District Attorney's Office arrested the seller.

DEC Division of Law Enforcement Director Karen Przyklek said, "A precise and coordinated effort by two elite law enforcement divisions resulted in the shutdown of another lucrative illegal ivory operation. I hope this serves as a message to other sellers of illegal ivory in New York City and beyond that my Officers will investigate these cases thoroughly and ensure lawbreakers are held accountable."

John F. Calvelli, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said, "We congratulate the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York County District Attorney's Office for their continued efforts to enforce laws around the sale of elephant ivory. This effort in New York State is vital to efforts to protect elephants in Africa and Asia. We were proud to partner with DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos on our '96 Elephants' campaign to strengthen the law banning the sale of elephant ivory in New York State. At WCS, our teams in the elephant range countries have seen the positive effects of governments across the world taking stands to end the sale of elephant ivory."

Wild elephant populations worldwide number fewer than 500,000 and are listed as endangered species. New York's Environmental Conservation Law makes the sale of ivory without a permit illegal.

In 2014, New York State strengthened its laws on interstate ivory sales, increasing penalties against buyers and sellers whose actions further endanger elephant populations worldwide. Since the law took effect, DEC has focused on the illegal ivory trade and charged several corporations and individuals, including those brought down during "Operation White Gold," an undercover operation launched by DEC's Division of Law Enforcement from 2015 to 2018 in New York City focused on high-end antique dealers and wholesale distributors throughout the five boroughs. The ivory seized during the undercover operation weighed two tons and had a combined market value of more than $12 million. DEC destroyed most of the seized ivory in a massive crush in New York City's Central Park in 2017.

In May, 2023, just prior to Endangered Species Day, DEC partnered with the New York State Museum to announce a new display featuring some of the remaining ivory as a reminder of the rampant and continued slaughter of the African elephant, rhinoceros, and other majestic endangered species that fuel the transnational illegal trade in wildlife. The display remains at the New York State Museum for visitors to observe. More information is on DEC's website and at the New York State Museum website.

Screenshot of ivory pool cues offered for sale on social media