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Press Release

Man Convicted for Illegally Importing Ancient Mosaic

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted a California man today for illegally importing from Syria an ancient mosaic depicting the Roman demigod Hercules that is believed to be 2,000 years old.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, in August 2015, Mohammed Yassin Alcharihi, 56, of Palmdale, illegally imported the mosaic – which dates from the era of the Roman Empire and is of Syrian origin – by claiming that he was importing various items worth $2,199. However, the mosaic was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The false classifications occurred months after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria, particularly by the terrorist organizations Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Nusrah Front.

Alcharihi was convicted of one count of entry of falsely classified goods. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 31 and faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison. The government is also seeking forfeiture of the mosaic. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney E. Martin Estrada for the Central District of California, Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles, and Special Agent in Charge Don Alway of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office’s Criminal Division made the announcement.

The FBI’s Art Crime Team and HSI Los Angeles’ Ventura Division investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Christian A. Levesque of the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark A. Williams, Matthew W. O’Brien, and Maxwell Coll for the Central District of California are prosecuting the case.

Updated June 21, 2023

Press Release Number: 23-686