Necromance store on Melrose Avenue. Photo via welikela.com
Necromance store on Melrose Avenue. Photo via welikela.com

Just as Halloween approaches, the owner of a spooky Melrose Avenue bat skull and taxidermy shop has been sentenced to one year of probation for violating the Endangered Species Act by knowingly importing protected seahorses and bat skulls without the proper permits.

Nancy Delap Smith, 56, of Studio City, was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Her West Hollywood store, Necromance, was ordered to pay $20,000 in fines and placed on probation for two years.

According to Dictionary.com, necromance or necromancy is “a method of divination through alleged communication with the dead; black art.” A second definition calls it “magic in general, especially that practiced by a witch or sorcerer.”

Smith and a store representative entered guilty pleas in July to unlawful trade in protected species before U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. McDermott.

“The laws are designed to protect plant and wildlife that is threatened,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Mitchell said after a previous hearing. “In this case, documentation is needed to bring these items into the country.”

The case stemmed from packages sent from Indonesia and intercepted, before reaching the store, in March and May 2011 by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection international mail facility.

Mailing labels identified the contents as containing keychains and freeze-dried bats “for educational study,” according to the declaration of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who investigated the case.

Upon examination, the first package contained dozens of dried seahorses – – attached to keychains — mantises, scorpions, tree frogs, sleeping fruit bats and hanging fruit bats, the agent wrote.

The package also included a document “which incorrectly or falsely” stated that the shipment contained no species on the CITES — Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora — checklist, according to the agent.

The international agreement aims to ensure that trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The agent wrote that the second package, intercepted two months later, contained additional seahorse keychains and numerous bat skulls found to be protected under CITES. An invoice described the seahorse keychains as a non- CITES item, according to the agent’s declaration.

Prosecutors said Smith was aware that the contents of the Indonesia shipments could contain protected wildlife products.

–City News Service

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