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This FBI Team Probes 'Disruptions in the Spirit'

It's the Art Crime Team, which raids private collections
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2020 7:00 PM CDT
Updated Jul 2, 2020 3:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – The FBI surrounded Don Miller's farmhouse with ATVs, squad cars, and a command vehicle—but this was no gunpoint arrest. It was the FBI's Art Crime Team, which scoured Miller's Indiana residence and found about 42,000 items including mammoth tusks, a shrunken head, dinosaur eggs, and enough human remains for about 500 people, the Indianapolis Star reported in 2014. About half the items were Native American, and all were from the 91-year-old's many years as a collector and amateur adventurer. The FBI made headlines culling thousands of illegally obtained items from his farm, but it was far from their only accomplishment. Now the Atlantic takes a look at the FBI program that's been returning objects to rightful owners since 2004.

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That's when the FBI created the team in response to looting at the National Museum of Iraq during the US-led occupation. The program has since returned rare objects including a $40 million Rembrandt and, in the case of Miller, many historical artifacts to Haiti, where Miller was a Christian missionary who grabbed items on the side, per the Star. The FBI says a typical art raid retrieves about 2,000 objects taken from places like archaeological sites, Native American burials, and churches, often unreported and even unnoticed. But the damage can run deep: "When someone's ancestral remains are not at home, and they're not at rest, that causes a disruption in the spirit," says a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe. "And that affects people." Click for the full Atlantic article, which reveals Miller's fate. (Read more FBI stories.)

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