California man guilty of smuggling $1M in ivory, rhino horn

Mar 9, 2016 6:25 PM by News Staff

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - A Beverly Hills gallery and auction house official has pleaded guilty to smuggling an estimated $1 million worth of items made from rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral.

Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that Joseph Chait pleaded guilty to two charges in a New York federal court. He could face up to 10 years in prison.

Chait is the senior auction administrator of the I.M. Chait Asian art gallery and auction house.

Prosecutors say he falsified customs forms to show that carvings and other items made from protected wildlife were made of bone, wood or plastic. He also helped clients from China and other countries smuggle restricted items out of the U.S.

Authorities say one carving made from rhino horn sold was auctioned for $230,000.

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