Feds Raid Calif. Museums, Gallery in Stolen Art Case

Illegal artifacts donated for inflated tax deductions
By Lucas Laursen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2008 10:38 AM CST
Federal agents are shown behind a security barrier at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Thursday Jan. 24, 2008 in Los Angeles. A law enforcement source said the agents looked for stolen antiquities...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Federal agents raided four California museums and a private gallery in a smuggling investigation into stolen foreign antiquities, reports the New York Times. The gallery allegedly imported looted goods from Thailand, Myanmar, and China, and individuals got inflated tax write-offs for donating them to museums. No charges have yet been filed in the case, which is being investigated by immigration, national park, and tax authorities.

The raids were a surprise, despite the prosecution of a former curator at Los Angeles' Getty Museum. At the Bowers and Asia Pacific museums, curators appeared to be aware of their donation’s illegal origins, according to affidavits. Another museum’s curators “were sticklers for having good provenance,” a gallery owner told an undercover agent, but said it “had found a loophole.”