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The Feds Hit California Museums and Galleries


What did you talk about all weekend if you and your fellow FBI agents were getting together at a bar or a party? If you were in California at the end of last week, you were probably talking about all the awesome raids on museums and galleries you got to be a part of. It’s being reported that they were knocking on doors and storming four museums and galleries in the southern half of the state late last week, looking for connections between them and smugglers from Southeast Asia, based off an investigation focused on 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.

No charges have been filed in the investigation, which was described as continuing by a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. The inquiry is being conducted by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office, the National Park Service and the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service.

And now it seems, if they don’t find all they’re looking for in Southern California, they’ll head north, as the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the UC Berkeley Art Museum has received a call from federal agents, interested in what that museum might have. We think that other Bay Area museums should be advised to start burying you-know-what in the you-know-where before the you-know-who’s come by and start snooping around (wink, wink).

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