A California Man Was Found Guilty Of Importing A Byzantine-era Hercules Mosaic From Syria

An ancient floor mosaic, estimated to have been created in modern-day Syria almost two thousand years ago and worth close to $500,000, was found to have been illegally imported by a California man.

According to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office, Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi, 56, was found guilty on one count of entry of fraudulently categorized goods on June 21.

Federal authorities claimed in the release that Alcharihi made a “false classification” regarding the enormous mosaic’s “value and quality.” The antiquated artifacts were shipped from Turkey in August 2015 and arrived at the port in Long Beach.

The mosaic, which is estimated to have been created during the Byzantine period of the Roman Empire, depicts Prometheus being rescued by Hercules after being imprisoned on a rock by other gods for stealing fire.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Alcharihi only paid around $12,000 for the artifact, which an appraiser said was worth $450,000. Prosecutors claim that when he imported the artwork into the US, he lied and stated that he was bringing ceramic tiles from Turkey with a value of less than $600.

According to the press release, the mosaic is around 15 feet long and 8 feet tall, weighing a hefty 2,000 pounds. The object was concealed in a shipping container concealed behind a group of vases, and after clearing customs, it was transported by truck to Alcharihi’s residence.

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Since being taken from Alcharihi’s garage in 2016, it has been kept at a Los Angeles facility. A request for comment regarding the future intentions for the artwork was not immediately answered by the US Attorney’s Office.

Just a few months after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution denouncing the destruction of cultural assets in Syria, Alcharihi made false claims regarding the mosaic.

Large tracts of artwork and archaeological relics have been lost since the start of the Syrian civil conflict in 2011 due to ISIS devastation and opportunistic looting. ISIS fighters reportedly destroyed six old monuments in 2015, one of which was from the second century.

According to the news release, Alcharihi will be sentenced next month. The maximum term for him in federal prison is two years.

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