The other institutions searched were the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Mingei International Museum in San Diego and the Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles.
At the center of the investigation are the owners of the Silk Roads Gallery, Jonathan Markell and his wife, Cari Markell, and Robert Olson, who is said in the search warrants to have smuggled looted antiquities out of Thailand, Myanmar and China.
In affidavits supporting the warrants, federal agents said the Markells had imported looted antiquities provided by Mr. Olson and then arranged to donate them to museums on behalf of clients who took inflated tax deductions for the gifts.
Raids suggest a deeper network of looted art
Olson allegedly told the agent he had been importing objects from Ban Chiang since the 1980s and had never received a permit from the Thai government. He said he got objects "as they were being dug up" and knew it was illegal to ship them out of the country, the warrants say.
The smuggled antiquities were affixed with "Made in Thailand" labels, and sometimes painted over, to make them look to U.S. customs officials like modern replicas, Olson allegedly told the agent.
Olson also claimed to have the largest collection of Native American ladles anywhere in the world and admitted that he had dug for artifacts on public land in New Mexico without authorization, the warrants state.
Archaeological artifact looting a 'chronic problem'
About 340 looting incidents considered "significant" are reported each year at the 391 national parks, monuments, historic sites and battlefields--probably less than 25 percent of the actual number of violations, said National Park Service ranger Greg Lawler.
"The theft of archaeological and paleontological resources is a chronic problem that we simply have not even been able to get a grasp on," said Mark Gorman, chief ranger at South Dakota's Badlands National Park. "There's just insufficient resources."
P.S. I visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art occasionally.
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