SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The owner of a vintage clothing store in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district was charged Wednesday with nine misdemeanor counts for allegedly selling furs of endangered species.
Cicely Hansen, the owner of Decades of Fashion on Haight Street, made a court appearance to hear the charges against her.
District Attorney George Gascón said the noted fashionista could face four and a half years in prison and face a fine of $45,000 if she is found guilty on all charges.
Hansen was arrested March 1, nearly a year after a Feb. 16, 2016, search of her store at 1653 Haight St. by state Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators.
Gascón said a game warden acting on a anonymous tip initially entered the store undercover and acted as if they were interested in a vintage jaguar coat, priced at $4,500 and an ocelot coat, priced at $850.00.
They later returned and seized 150 items from the store, which advertises items ranging from Victorian times to the 1980s.
The items connected to the case include clothing and accessories containing skins and body parts from a jaguar, leopard, ocelot, snow leopard and endangered sea turtle, among others.
"The sale of endangered species is not only against the law, but in reality these animals are endangered for a reason," Gascón told reporters.
In January 2016, California passed a law making it illegal to sell any body part – including pelts – of endangered animals. The raid took place one month after the law went into effect.
Outside of court, Hansen said she was not aware that the law covered vintage furs.
"The ruling I'd always gone by, because I've been involved in vintage for a long time, anything that was done before 1972 is considered vintage," said Hansen. "And apparently, that's true throughout the United States, but that's changed in California. And I was totally unaware of that."
"My main thing is that I'm a preservationist, not a poacher," she added.
Hansen is well known on the San Francisco fashion scene and has put on fashion shows featuring her furs.
Gascón acknowledged it was legal to sell certain items made of endangered species until last year.
"That law has changed. It is completely illegal in the state of California to possess and sell any endangered species," Gascón said. "They [cases like Hansen's] are not very common. It's a very high-end market."
The DA told reporters that the furs were being sold in a secluded area of her store.
"She had a normal operation that sold vintage clothing out front," he said. "This [where the furs were for sale] was more in the back in a more discreet part of the store … This was purposely kept for a more discreet clientele."
Gascón said Hansen's clients were not in danger of arrest because the law only covered possession with the intent to sell.
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