Art Gallery And Gallery Owner Charged With Obstruction Of Justice In Connection With Importation Of Ancient Chinese Artifacts
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announce that Lorin & Son, LLC, an art dealer based in Winter Park, Florida, and Francois B. Lorin, 74, of Winter Park, Florida, were each charged by Information with one count of obstruction of justice, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2), in connection with the importation of ancient Chinese artifacts that were interdicted by authorities at the Port of Miami. Lorin & Son, LLC faces a maximum $500,000 fine and up to five years’ probation, and Francois B. Lorin faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Information also alleges forfeiture of the items in the shipment, including various artifacts that were the subject of the alleged obstruction conduct. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez.
Lorin & Son, LLC conducted business under the name “Asiantiques,” and bought and sold Asian art through a gallery in Winter Park, Florida, and at trade shows and other industry meetings in the United States and Hong Kong. According to court documents, this matter involved the importation from Hong Kong of approximately 488 items of Chinese fine arts in June 2011, including certain cultural artifacts, through the Port of Miami. Twenty-seven of these items were subject to a prohibition against importation because they pre-dated 907 A.D. constitute items of significant Chinese cultural heritage. Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and the People’s Republic of China entered into as of January 14, 2009 (the “MOU”), archaeological materials representing China’s cultural heritage from the Paleolithic Period (c. 75,000 B.C.) through the end of the Tang Period (A.D. 907) could not be imported into the United States absent specific prior government approval. If, however, such items were already in the United States as of the MOU date, the items could be re-imported without prior authorization.
According to court documents, invoices accompanying the shipment indicated that the entire contents had originated in Florida and were being returned to the United States after having been shipped to Hong Kong for a trade show. After the items were interdicted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officials, Francois B. Lorin and others created false documents to justify provenance for certain items in the shipment that were prohibited from entering the United States without such provenance. Thereafter, Lorin & Son, LLC and Francois B. Lorin, through counsel, filed a Petition for Remission with CBP and provided supporting materials, in which the defendants argued for release of the interdicted items by using false invoices and providing other false information. The invoices that were submitted were backdated, falsely claimed that items had been acquired from third-parties before the MOU date, and otherwise falsely claimed that these documents established “proof” that the items could be lawfully imported.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy. Forfeiture and repatriation is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Lehr.
An information is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.