Court Finds Commercial Tenants’ Guilty Plea Voided Lease

Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques at 10 West 57th Street. Image credit: Google Maps.

The owners of a midtown antique shop were convicted of illegally selling $1.5 million worth of elephant ivory, which allowed their landlords to evict them pursuant to New York Property Law. In 2015, an undercover officer entered the Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques shop and bought ivory for $2,000. The sale of ivory without a permit became illegal in 2014 in an effort to protect elephant population. The authorities found and seized 126 ivory articles, including tusks valued between $150,000 to $200,000 after a search warrant was issued.

In July of 2017, Irving Morano and Samuel Morano, the owners and operators of the Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques shop located at 10 West 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan plead guilty to “varying degrees of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife” after selling over $4.5 million worth of illegal elephant ivory. The owners would forfeit their entire ivory inventory as part of their sentence, which was deemed the largest seizure of illegal elephant ivory in New York State’s history. The inventory consists of over 1,500 ivory carvings. The owners were also ordered to contribute $2,000 to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and $100,000 each towards endangered species protection efforts to two wildlife conservation organizations, Wildlife Tomorrow Fund, and World Wildlife Fund.

Following the conviction, the owners, Irving Morano and Samuel Morano, were subsequently evicted from their store after the landlord, Sheldon Solow, claimed the lease was voided due to the illegal sales conducted inside the premises. The Moranos sued the landlords to prevent the eviction.

In 2018, the Moranos brought suit in the Supreme Court against the landlords to seeking injunctive relief to prevent the eviction. The court explained that, under the New York Real Property Law, a lease becomes void when the tenants operate an illegal trade while using and occupying the premises. The owners continued to sell illegal elephant ivory leading to their arrest and their guilty plea. The court found the guilty plea was sufficient evidence to show the illegal practice, and thus voiding the lease interest and allowing the landlord to become immediately entitled to possession of the premises.

Currently there are plans filed with the Department of Buildings to convert the building to a mixed-use residential and commercial building.


Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques, Inc. v. 10 West 57th Street Realty LLC, 162 A.D. 3d 514 (2018).


By: Samantha Albanese. (Samantha Albanese is a CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2019).


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