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(C) 2017 J.S. Reinitz

 

I was looking through some old photos and came across this panorama shot of vintage WWII aircraft from a fly-in at the local airport. I had never noticed the dismembered hand artifact floating in the air before. These type of anomalies pop up when doing panorama and other types of layered photography.

As an aside, this photo was taken in July 2017. The B-17 Flying Fortress at the left crashed during a fly-in in Hartford, Connecticut, in October 2019.

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(C) 2017 J.S. Reinitz

Pumpkin Cannon vs School Bus  

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Happy Halloween !

First looted art repatriation to Libya

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photo courtesy Amanda Mason, ICE

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations International Operations Division Chief Leo Lin returned a sixth century marble statue known as the “Head of a Veiled Woman,” during a repatriation ceremony at the Libyan Embassy, Thursday.

The repatriation marks the first reparation ceremony between Libya and the United States.

The return of the statue was the culmination of an 11-year investigation led by HSI New York’s Cultural Property, Arts and Antiquities Unit, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In June 2008, HSI New York initiated a cultural property investigation in response to information indicating that looted antiquities were shipped to the United States from Dubai. The investigation revealed an antiquities dealer illegally shipped 50 items of cultural property originating from various nations to major museums, galleries and art houses in New York City.

In August 2008, HSI seized the Libyan marble statue during its shipment from the Dubai-based antiquities dealer to a collector in Queens, New York. The seized statue is the fragmented head of a veiled woman statue that is measured 13 inches tall by 10 inches wide. Ongoing efforts in this investigation led to the identification of several key players in a transnational criminal organization, engaging in the illicit trafficking of cultural antiquities.

 

photo courtesy Amanda Mason, ICE

 
The statue originated in the ancient city of Cyrene, Eastern Libya, and is part of the rich cultural heritage amongst the Libyan community.

In February 2018, Libya signed a historical memorandum of understanding with the United States to protect Libya’s cultural property from illegal smuggling and highlight the principle that culture truly unites people.

Customs agents seize looted Cambodian sculpture

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photo courtesy ICE

 SAN FRANCISCO ― On Sept. 12, 2019, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations San Francisco Special Agent David Keller, with assistance from HSI New York Special Agent John Paul Labbat, seized an ancient Cambodian sandstone sculpture dating back to 921-945 AD and valued at approximately $350,000.
Described as a Shiva and Uma statue, the artifact was discovered during an ongoing HSI New York investigation dubbed “Indochinese Peninsula Plunder” in the Southern District of New York. The investigation focuses on the smuggling activities of Douglas Latchford, a private collector linked to numerous looted Cambodian antiquities.
Originally purchased by a private collector in California, the statue was discovered for sale at a prominent San Francisco auction house following the collector’s death in 2015. It will be returned to the Cambodian people at the conclusion of this HSI-led investigation.

Two charged with timber theft in 2018 forest fire

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  Seattle – Two former Hood Canal area residents are charged with stealing to wood of big leaf maple trees from Olympic National Forest.

The indictment alleges that between April and August 2018, Justin Andrew Wilke and Shawn Edward Williams felled and sold publicly-owned maple trees, according to the US Attorneys Office for Western Washington.

The indictment alleges that, in August 2018, the two started a forest fire in an attempt to burn out a bees’ nest when they  were trying to unlawfully harvest from the National Forest land. The resulting fire – known as “The Maple Fire” – burned more than 3,300 acres between August and November 2018 and cost approximately $4.5 million to contain..
According to the indictment, as early as April 2018, the defendants traveled into areas of the Olympic National Forest to scout for big leaf maple trees that might contain ‘figured’ wood – wood that is highly prized for musical instruments. The men looked for maple trees they could steal in areas around Elk Lake and Lena Lake. The men then cut the maple trees, took blocks of wood from the trees to a property near Lilliwaup, Washington, and sold the blocks to a lumber mill in Tumwater, Washington. The conspirators presented the mill owner with permits claiming the maple had been harvested on private land, when in fact it had been illegally cut and stolen from the National Forest.

In early August 2018, after selling thousands of dollars’ worth of maple to the mill, the two identified a big leaf maple they wanted to steal. However, the large tree contained a bee’s nest, which made it difficult to fell. After unsuccessfully attempting to get rid of the bees with wasp killer, the men decided to kill the bees by burning the nest. Wilke poured gasoline on the nest and lit it on fire. The men tried to put the fire out with water bottles but were unsuccessful. The fire grew into a 3,300-acre forest fire, damaging public lands in Olympic National Forest and costing $4.5 million to extinguish.

Wilke is charged with eight federal felonies: Conspiracy; two counts of depredation of public property; theft of public property; trafficking in unlawfully harvested timber; attempted trafficking in unlawfully harvested timber; setting timber afire; and using fire in furtherance of a felony. Williams is charged with conspiracy, depredation of government property, and attempted trafficking in unlawfully harvested timber.

Conspiracy, setting timber afire, and trafficking in unlawfully harvested timber are each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Theft of public property and depredation of government property are punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Using fire in furtherance of a felony is punishable by a mandatory ten-year sentence of imprisonment

Nedjemankh’s gold coffin headed back to Egypt 

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photo courtesy ICE

 From Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

NEW YORK — A repatriation ceremony took place Wednesday following the recovery of a stolen Egyptian artifact previously on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This following an investigation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations New York and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. 

The Gold Coffin of Nedjemankh was presented to the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Hassan Shoukry who accepted the piece on behalf of the people of Egypt.

In February 2019, HSI New York and the D.A.’s Office executed a search warrant and seized the Gold Coffin of Nedjemankh from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was on display, as part of an ongoing joint investigation with law enforcement partners in Egypt, Germany, and France. The extraordinary coffin, crafted in Egypt between approximately 150 and 50 B.C.E., once held the remains of high-ranking priest Nedjemankh. It was stolen from the Minya region of Egypt in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution in October 2011. It was then smuggled out of Egypt and transported through the United Arab Emirates to Germany, where it was restored, and to France, where it was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in July 2017.

Once presented with evidence of the theft, the Metropolitan Museum of Art fully cooperated, culminating in Wednesday’s repatriation ceremony to return the artifact to Egypt, where it will be on public display. It has an estimated value of €3.5 million, or approximately $4 million.

Pennsylvania man sentenced for turtle trafficking

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Malaclemys terrapin

 David Sommers, 64, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in August 2019 to six months imprisonment and to pay $250,000 in restitution for trafficking protected turtles in U.S. District Court.

Authorities said Sommers represented himself as a legitimate reptile breeder, when he was in fact endangering the lives of these animals and breaking the law..

From November 2011 until October 2017, Sommers poached thousands of protected diamondback terrapins and their eggs from coastal marshes in New Jersey and illegally sold the turtles. A grand jury indicted Sommers on July 10, 2018 for his criminal conduct involving the sale, export and false-labeling of packages containing protected diamondback terrapins. On Feb. 4, 2019, Sommers pleaded guilty to false-labeling of packages containing protected diamondback terrapins.

Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are a semi-aquatic species of turtle native to brackish waters in eastern and southern United States. They are not found in the wild in Pennsylvania, where Sommers resided, but have a dwindling habitat range in neighboring New Jersey. The terrapins are prized in the reptile pet trade for their unique, diamond-shaped shell markings. The turtles are protected under New Jersey law and by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Florida couple indicted for cobra mounts, babirusa skull

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 We were too busy in July and missed this one from the U.S. Department of Justice: 

An indictment was unsealed in July (2019) from a federal grand jury sitting in Tampa, Florida, charges Novita Indah, 48, and Larry Malugin, 51, of Port Richey, Florida, with conspiracy and trafficking in protected wildlife. The indictment charges the couple with smuggling wildlife from Indonesia to the United States and reselling the wildlife from their Florida home.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized approximately 369 wildlife articles from their home during the execution of search warrant on Jan. 12, 2017. The agents recovered assorted Javan spitting cobra, reticulated python, and monitor lizard mounts, belts, and wallets, as well as a babirusa skull. A babirusa is a rare Indonesian pig prized for its distinctive curving tusks.

The indictment alleges that beginning in 2011, Indah and Malugin sold wildlife on eBay from their Indonesian home to buyers across the world. They would smuggle the items to purchasers in the United States in packages falsely labeled to conceal their contents. Indah and Malugin continued to sell wildlife after they moved to Puerto Rico and ultimately Florida in 2013. All of the wildlife was protected by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In addition to the seized wildlife, Indah and Malugin also trafficked in taxidermy mounts and bones of leopard cats, owls, and Southeast Asian primates, including slow loris, macaques, lutungs, and langurs.

From 2011 to 2017, Indah and Malugin made approximately 4,596 online sales of CITES-protected wildlife worth about $211,212. USFWS and Customs inspectors repeatedly seized packages shipped by the couple, but they continued to sell wildlife using various eBay and PayPal accounts. 

If convicted, Indah and Malugin face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ incarceration on the smuggling charges and five years for the Lacey Act violations. The indictment also seeks to forfeit the wildlife seized from their residence.

Smuggled bronze statue and relief returned to India

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photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 
LONDON – A limestone carved relief and Navaneetha Krishna Bronze figure from India were repatriated to their home country. On Aug. 15, 2019, the High Commissioner of India in London accepted the return of the artifacts on behalf of India.

The artifacts are linked to one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world, who was recently charged in Manhattan, New York, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

An individual in the United Kingdom who possessed the items came forward to Homeland Security Investigations expressing a desire to surrender the pieces.

In June 2019, working with the Metropolitan Police Service, the individual turned over the artifacts to authorities. With the assistance of Indian Customs and an expert examination, the limestone relief is estimated to date from 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD, originating from Andhra Pradesh.

The bronze figure is estimated to date from 17th Century AD, originating from Tamil Nadu.

Both items will be examined by domain experts at a later date to establish their exact period and original location. The repatriated artifacts are just two of more than 2,600 antiquities that have been recovered around the world. The investigation remains ongoing.

Photo: Botanical Garden waterfall

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(c)2019 J.S.Reinitz

  
 Waterfall at the Des Moines Botanical Garden. (C)2019 J.S.Reinitz .

Photo: Pappajohn Sculpture Garden

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(c)2019 JS Reinitz

 
Photos of “Nomade” by Jaume Plensa at Pappajohn Sculpture Park in DesMoines. Below is from the museum’s entry on the piece:

Jaume Plensa describes individual letters as components that have little meaning on their own, but blossom into words, thoughts, and language when combined with other letters. Plensa’s letters offer a metaphor for human culture, in which a person alone has limited potential, but when formed into groups or societies, becomes stronger.

(c)2019

Photo: Face in the wall

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Metz, France. (c)1974 Roger D. Reinitz

 
An aside to the last post, here’s another photo taken in Metz, France, from my father’s archives.

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