A San Rafael woman accused of attempting to sell pieces made with elephant ivory at a San Mateo jewelry show in 2016 pleaded no contest to misdemeanor possession of ivory for purposes of sale Monday, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
Tao Zeng, 54, will serve 20 days in county jail instead of paying a minimum fine of $5,000 for her conviction after a judge granted her defense attorney’s request to convert her fine into a jail sentence, according to prosecutors.
On Sept. 11, 2016, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was alerted to the possible sale of rhinoceros horn at a San Mateo gem show. When a warden approached Zeng, an antique merchant, at her booth, she was found to have two horns of what the warden suspected was ivory among the items she was selling, according to prosecutors.
While the warden inspected the horns, Zeng allegedly put several items into a bag, which she placed at her feet. A second warden allegedly saw Zeng move the items and asked her to produce the bag, the contents of which were also inspected. Further analysis at a lab showed a large clip, a string of beads and a bangle bracelet were made from elephant ivory and cumulatively valued at $250, according to prosecutors.
Having previously pleaded not guilty to her charges, Zeng faced up to a year in county jail and thousands of dollars in fines before Monday’s hearing. All of the ivory pieces seized from Zeng will be turned over to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and she also received two years probation, according to prosecutors.
Defense attorney John Campion did not immediately return a call for comment.
Currently out of custody on her own recognizance, Zeng will surrender to her jail sentence July 7, according to prosecutors.