Manhattan D.A. announces Indictment of Man and Woman for selling Illegal Ivory

Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Manhattan D.A. announces Indictment of Man and Woman for selling Illegal Ivory

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. today announced the indictments of Yincheng Wu, Grace Hu and Merces Gallery LLC, for illegally selling thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal elephant ivory through online auctions. YINCHENG WU, GRACE HU, and MERCES GALLERY LLC are each charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with three counts of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife.

“Yincheng Wu and Grace Hu allegedly sold thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal ivory, harming an already endangered species by perpetuating the illicit market for ivory,” said District Attorney Bragg. “Those who partake in the illegal ivory trade will be held accountable. I thank our law enforcement partners for their assistance in this investigation.”

“The defendants are accused of selling ivory and prohibited animal products with willful disregard for state and federal law and, more importantly, the impact their alleged crimes have had on already endangered species. The sale of items containing illicitly acquired ivory has contributed to the near extinction of elephants and is often the result of vicious poaching and illegal importation practices,” said HSI New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo. “I am proud to stand alongside the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in shining a light on these deplorable acts.”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar said, “New York State does not tolerate the international illegal wildlife trade and is committed to prosecuting those who profit from it. DEC is proud to work with partners at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations on the successful arrest of individuals selling illegal ivory. This case is a reminder that DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement takes the illegal sale of elephant ivory seriously and lawbreakers will be held accountable.”  

According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, between April 2020 and May 2023, Wu and Hu allegedly operated Merces, an online auction business, out of an office in Great Neck, New York. Through Merces, Wu and Hu advertised and sold elephant ivory carvings, including carved elephant tusks, evading detection by advertising their products as “Rare Material” rather than elephant ivory.

Between April and June 2020, Wu and Hu registered Merces with the New York Department of State, created the website “,” and opened a business checking account at JP Morgan Chase Bank, with WU and HU as sole signatories. After setting up their business, they began to conduct auctions both on their “” website, and on the online auction website “”

During these auctions, Merces advertised items that appeared to be made from elephant ivory or rhinoceros’ horns. In order to disguise the nature of their product, however, the items were listed only as “Rare Material,” and neither ivory nor rhinoceros’ horn was mentioned in the listings.

Wu and Hu sold ivory products to an undercover DEC Environmental Conservation Police Lieutenant on three separate occasions: a set of elephant ivory rosary beads purchased for $4,800; three elephant ivory figurines for $2,640; and a carved elephant tusk for $31,950.

The undercover officer purchased the ivory rosary, labeled “Chinese Gold-inlaid rare material 18-counts rosary,” during a Merces auction hosted on Live Auctioneers.

After winning the auction, the undercover officer met with Hu to make the payment in Great Neck, NY. At this meeting, HU indicated that Merces would receive the ivory rosary from Hong Kong, inspect it, and then ship it to the P.O. Box the officer provided. The word “ivory” was not mentioned in the listing for the item, nor in discussions with Hu concerning payment and shipment.

When the undercover officer inquired about purchasing a second item, however, Hubegan to use the word “ivory” to describe the products being discussed. Ultimately, Hu agreed to sell the officer three ivory figurines for $2,640.

Shortly thereafter, the undercover officer wrote to Hu inquiring about buying a “full worked piece” – a reference to a carved elephant tusk – and sent as an example a “Rare Material” item that Merces claimed they sold at a prior auction. Although not advertised as such, the item was in fact a carved elephant tusk. In response, Hu sent the officer 36 images of what appeared to be approximately 10 different carved ivory tusks for potential purchase.

After some negotiation, they settled on one particular carved elephant ivory tusk for a purchase price of $31,950. When Wu, Hu, and the undercover officer discussed shipping, WU said that “we will probably have some problems with customs,” adding that “this item is pretty sensitive.”

On April 18, 2023, Wu delivered the carved ivory tusk personally to the undercover officer in Manhattan. At that meeting, Wu stated that the tusk had come from China and, in substance, “we still had some problems with customs you know … we got some solution about it.” When Wu and UC-1 talked about doing future business WU stated, “Like this piece we have several, but you have select. We have a lot of piece, I know you prefer the ivory.”

Following the investigation, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office seized Merces’ website, “,” pursuant to a search warrant.

Main Image :Carved elephant tusk

Stephanie Cime

ArtDependence WhatsApp Group

Get the latest ArtDependence updates directly in WhatsApp by joining the ArtDependence WhatsApp Group by clicking the link or scanning the QR code below


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


About ArtDependence

ArtDependence Magazine is an international magazine covering all spheres of contemporary art, as well as modern and classical art.

ArtDependence features the latest art news, highlighting interviews with today’s most influential artists, galleries, curators, collectors, fair directors and individuals at the axis of the arts.

The magazine also covers series of articles and reviews on critical art events, new publications and other foremost happenings in the art world.

If you would like to submit events or editorial content to ArtDependence Magazine, please feel free to reach the magazine via the contact page.