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Byline: Dan Reed
Mar. 9--Those who are swindled come from as close as Silicon Valley and as far as China -- the visitors from the world over who make tourism San Francisco's No. 1 industry. Many have been cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars. Most will never know it.
They've invested fortunes, big and small, in purchases proudly displayed as treasures back home. Yet much of it is junk -- electronics that never work, bone sold as ivory, soapstone sold as jade, new furniture from Romania sold as antiques from Italy, reproductions sold as original masterworks.
"All of it is garbage," says Eli Shamash, an informant for the consumer protection division of the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. "It continues all the time. No one can stop them."
Yet the consumer protection office is trying to do just that, cracking down on flim-flam artists who started with small-time ripoffs on electronic gear years ago and have now moved into the higher-stakes circles of rare art.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last year passed a new law regulating sales, and government lawyers are now …