Ivory sales result in federal guilty plea in Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Virginia man has pleaded guilty to illegally selling ivory ornaments made from elephant tusks.

Gary Cooper, 60, of Fredericksburg, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria to the misdemeanor unlawful sale of endangered species.

According to court records, Cooper sold seven pieces of ivory worth more than $3,000 to multiple undercover agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a 16-month period beginning in September 2018. He also offered dozens of other pieces, including tusks, for sale.

Prosecutors said Cooper told his buyers that he was selling off items from an elderly couple’s estate when in reality he was buying ivory pieces online and reselling for a profit.

The plea agreement requires Cooper to forfeit more than 130 pieces of raw and carved ivory.

Cooper’s lawyer, Caleb Kershner, said his client accepts responsibility and that the sales were motivated in part by financial difficulties in caring for his mother.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said a ban on the commercial trade in ivory from African elephants has been in place since 2016, though some exceptions are permitted.

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