La Jolla Crime and Public-Safety News: Charges filed in ivory trafficking case against La Jolla gallery


Charges filed in ivory trafficking case against La Jolla gallery

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott filed criminal charges Nov. 28 against the Carlton Gallery in La Jolla, its owner, and an employee for trafficking ivory in defiance of California law.

This prosecution follows the largest seizure of ivory products by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife since a state law banning their sale took effect in 2016. More than 300 pieces of ivory and items containing ivory were seized from the gallery and its warehouse valued at $1.3 million.

The investigation into Carlton Gallery began in May 2017, when wildlife officers from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Trafficking Unit observed two art-deco sculptures that appeared to be ivory in the gallery’s 1144 Prospect St. display window. In December 2017 and March 2018, wildlife officers returned and observed additional items that appeared to contain ivory.

In a sting operation conducted on May 1, 2018, undercover wildlife officers purchased an ivory sculpture from salesperson Sheldon Miles Kupersmith, who offered to sell the officers three other sculptures containing ivory. Wildlife officers obtained and executed a search warrant later that day and seized 146 items containing ivory from the gallery. The Gallery’s owner, Victor Hyman Cohen, then led investigators to a warehouse nearby where officers seized 192 additional pieces of ivory. Most of the items contained ivory from elephants, while some contained ivory from the teeth of hippopotami. Cohen and Kupersmith were charged as individuals.

“Ivory trafficking is an illegal and reprehensible business that encourages the senseless slaughter of elephants and other endangered species,” said City Attorney Mara W. Elliott. “I hope this prosecution sends a strong message to anyone who sells or is thinking about selling ivory on the black market in San Diego: We will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. I want to thank our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for uncovering this crime in our city.”

This case is being prosecuted by Supervising Deputy City Attorney Patricia Miranda and Deputy City Attorney Jordan DuBois on behalf of the People of the State of California.

Citizens may report health and safety and environmental violations to the City Attorney’s Nuisance Abatement Unit at (619) 533-5655.

— City Attorney’s reports

Woman on life-support following arrest in La Jolla

A 24-year-old woman is on life-support following her arrest during a traffic stop Nov. 27 near the 3700 block of La Jolla Village Drive. Police report Aleah Mariah Jenkins was pulled over for a traffic stop and was arrested for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant, at which time she said she had an upset stomach and vomited. The officers called for paramedics, but Jenkins said she had only had an upset stomach, so medics were canceled.

While in police custody, she became unresponsive and appeared to be in medical distress.

According to press material: “Officers immediately began life-saving efforts and called for medical assistance. San Diego Fire-Rescue personnel responded to assist. Due to the seriousness of the female’s condition, investigators from the Homicide Unit were assigned to investigate the incident. The investigators are conducting an exhaustive investigation into the facts surrounding the arrest and the events leading up to the female going into medical distress. During the course of the medical intervention, controlled substances were found concealed in (Jenkin’s) clothing.”

She was taken to a local hospital where she is on life-support.

Police report there is no indication force was used on Jenkins, but the name of the officer that transported her (a six-year department veteran) is not being released.

Soon after her arrest, a Facebook group formed called “What Happened to Aleah Jenkins” asking for the San Diego Police Department to release the body camera footage of her arrest and explain what happened during her time in police custody. A posting reads: “While in police custody something happened. We don’t know. … What happened to her!? Her mother, Kieala Jenkins, deserves answers! Why can’t she see the footage? Why is homicide involved?”

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Police Blotter

Nov. 17

Vehicle theft, 400 block Prospect St., 12:01 a.m.

Nov. 18

Petty theft, 6600 block Avenida la Reina, 10:30 a.m.

Vehicle theft, 5900 block Camino de la Costa, 1:55 p.m.

Nov. 22

Grand theft over $950, 700 block Archer St., 11 p.m.

Nov. 23

Vehicle break-in/theft, 600 block Tourmaline St., 2 p.m.

Nov. 24

Vehicle theft, Mission Boulevard at Wilbur Avenue, noon

Nov. 26

Vehicle theft, 8300 block Camino del Oro, 4 p.m.

Vandalism ($400 or more), 400 block Camino de la Costa, 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 27

Vehicle break-in/theft, 2200 block Calle Frescota, 9:15 a.m.

Residential burglary, 2500 block Hidden Valley Place, 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 28

Vehicle break-in/theft, 8300 block El Paseo Grande, 9:20 a.m.

Vandalism, 1200 block Torrey Pines Road, 9:40 a.m.

Nov. 30

Vehicle break-in/theft, 7800 block Ivanhoe Ave., noon

Dec. 1

Vehicle break-in/theft, 2600 block Torrey Pines Road, 2 a.m.

Commercial burglary, 900 block Pearl St., 3:48 a.m.

— Compiled by Ashley Mackin-Solomon