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Fin-dictment in shark harvest

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  Members of a fishing vessel have been charged with harvesting sharks for the fin of it. More from the Department of Justice:

HONOLULU – The owner and officers of a Japanese-flagged fishing vessel were charged in federal court today with aiding and abetting the trafficking and smuggling of 962 shark fins into and out of Hawaii on Nov. 7, 2018. 

According to court documents and information presented in court, the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20, engaged in longline tuna fishing in the southern Pacific Ocean for approximately one year. 

 The officers were Japanese nationals, and the fishermen were Indonesian nationals. During the voyage, the fishermen harvested fins from approximately 300 sharks, in some instances while the sharks were stunned but still alive, and discarded the finless carcasses into the ocean, all under the supervision of the Captain, and at the direction of the Fishing Master and First Engineer. The Captain, Fishing Master, First Engineer, and many of the Indonesian fishermen all kept shark fins to take home with them.

On or about November 6, 2018, the Kyoshin Maru traveled to a location near Honolulu, Hawaii, but more than 12 miles from shore, where it met a water taxi that had been arranged by a Vessel Agent from a local marine navigation corporation. 

The Indonesian fishermen disembarked the Kyoshin Maru and boarded the water taxi. The Kyoshin Maru then left for Japan with the Captain, Fishing Master, and First Engineer onboard, still in possession of shark fins. Meanwhile, the Indonesian fishermen traveled to Pier 36, where they legally entered the United States for the purpose of traveling to Honolulu International Airport, in order to board previously-ticketed flights to Indonesia.
During routine screening, officers with the Transportation Security Administration discovered shark fins in checked luggage. Upon discovering the shark fins, TSA immediately notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which determined the checked luggage belonged to 10 of the Indonesian fishermen and included approximately 190 pounds of shark fins, which is worth as much as $57,850 on the black market. 

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Wildlife charges added in murder plot investigation

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From the Department of Justice:

Nov.7, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY –Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joseph Allen Maldonado, Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, and “Joe Exotic,” 55, formerly of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, has been charged in a 21-count superseding indictment that includes the two previously charged murder-for-hire counts and also alleges nineteen wildlife crimes, including the alleged killing of five tigers and the illegal sale of tiger cubs, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. 

  On September 5, 2018, a federal grand jury returned an indictment that accuses Maldonado-Passage of hiring an unnamed person in November 2017 to murder “Jane Doe” in Florida. According to the indictment, Maldonado-Passage gave the unnamed person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and then to Florida to carry out the murder. He allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed. The indictment alleges Maldonado-Passage caused the person to travel to Dallas to get fake identification for use in the plot. According to the indictment, the person traveled from Oklahoma to South Carolina on November 26, 2017.

In a second count, the September 5 indictment alleges that beginning in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly asked a different unnamed person to find someone to murder Jane Doe in exchange for money. The second person put Maldonado-Passage in contact with an undercover FBI agent. Maldonado-Passage met with the undercover agent on December 8, 2017, to discuss details of murdering Jane Doe.

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No place like home, slippers recovered

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Dawn Wallace, a conservator for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, analyzes one of the recovered slippers at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Lab in Washington, D.C. (Smithsonian photo)

 from the FBI:

A pair of ruby slippers featured in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, was seized in a sting operation conducted in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
While the FBI has identified suspects and has executed multiple search warrants in Minnesota and Florida in connection with the investigation, investigators are seeking the public’s help to identify all parties associated with the initial theft and the more recent scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, the owner of the slippers.

The ruby slippers are one of several pairs used in the production of the movie classic. Only four pairs of the shoes used in the film are known to remain and are widely viewed as among the most recognizable memorabilia in American film history. Current estimates value the slippers in the millions of dollars should they be sold at auction.

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Govermnent seek forfeiture of “One Ancient Mosaic”

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ancient mosaic depicting Hercules

 
LOS ANGELES – The United States in May filed an asset forfeiture complaint against an ancient mosaic depicting Hercules, believed to have been made in the 3rd or 4th Century, that likely was looted from war-torn Syria, allegedly illegally imported into the United States, and seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations at a Palmdale residence.

The mosaic, which is approximately 18 feet long and weighs approximately one ton, was seized by FBI and HSI special agents in March 2016 as part of an investigation into the smuggling of looted items believed to be from a foreign conflict area into the United States.

The complaint, which was filed in United States District court under the caption United States v. One Ancient Mosiac, alleges that a Palmdale man smuggled the antiquity into the United States with false and fraudulent documents with the intent to avoid import duties.

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Kentucky man sentenced for raiding Native American graves

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  Louisville, Ky. – U.S. District Court judge sentenced Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, Kentucky, to 15 months in prison for three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) on June 6, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assisted Park Service agents throughout.
The undercover investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in South Central Kentucky and also burials from as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Womack dealt in artifacts from the so-called “G.E. Mound” case prosecuted in the Southern District of Indiana in 1992. 

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Bodies of missing hikers found in Alaska

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Copper Center, Alaska – National Park Service rangers recovered the bodies of two hikers who were swept away by a glacial river in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park on July 2. According to a Park Service release, identification by NPS law enforcement matches that of two backpackers that were last seen on June 22 when they were dropped off by an air taxi operator at the Sanford Glacier airstrip less than two miles from where the bodies were found.

The backpackers were identified as 62-year old Rochelle Renken and 62-year old Michael Huffman, both from Columbia, Missouri. The couple were experienced backpackers and Renken has been to Alaska several times in the past and had previous experience crossing Alaskan rivers. Positive identification is pending from the State Medical Examiner. The deaths appear to be accidental. No foul play is suspected.

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Another Columbus letter makes it home

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MayflowerWILMINGTON, Delaware — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigation Philadelphia special agents and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware returned Thursday a more than 500-year-old copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter describing his discoveries in the Americas to the Vatican during a repatriation ceremony at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (the “Vatican Library) in Vatican City. The letter, originally written in 1493, was stolen from the Vatican Library and later sold in 2004 for approximately $875,000. This is the third Christopher Columbus’ letter repatriation in the past two years.

The return marks the second Columbus letter to be returned this months and the third in recent years.

In or around Dec. 1921, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus donated a copy of the Columbus Letter (along with thousands of other rare books and manuscripts) to Pope Benedict XV. The Columbus Letter was preserved in the Vatican Library. After receiving a copy of the Columbus Letter, at no time did the Vatican City State or the Vatican Library relinquish title to this document. In or around 1934, a detailed description of the Vatican Library’s copy of the Columbus Letter was cataloged in the census copies of the standard bibliography of fifteenth-century printing, otherwise known as the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke (volume VI, Leipzig, 1934, no. 7177). At an unknown time and date, the Columbus Letter was stolen from the Vatican Library and replaced with a forgery, which was designed to appear like the original letter.

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Columbus letter returned

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Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Justice returned a more than 500-year-old copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter describing his discoveries in the Americas to Spain during an evening repatriation ceremony at the Residence of the Spanish Ambassador to the United States on June 6, 2018.

The letter, originally written in 1493, was stolen from the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona and sold for approximately $1 million.

In March 2013, it was discovered that the Columbus Letter believed to have been stolen from Barcelona was reportedly sold for 900,000 euros in June 2011. Following extensive negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, the individual in possession of the letter volunteered to transfer custody to HSI Special Agents, which was then brought to Wilmington, Delaware in February 2014 for further examination. In March 2014, a subject matter expert evaluated the letter and determined that the document was “beyond all doubt” the original stolen from the National Library of Catalonia.

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Plea in whale teeth trafficking

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John “Jake” Bell, of Lakeville, Connecticut, pleaded guilty June 6 to illegally trafficking teeth from endangered sperm whales.

Bell pleaded guilty today in Boston to one count of wildlife trafficking in violation of the Lacey Act. As part of his plea, Bell admitted that in November 2004, while in the Ukraine, he sold approximately 34 sperm whale teeth to a co-conspirator who resided in Nantucket, Massachusetts, for $11,600. Bell shipped the 34 teeth in multiple boxes from the Ukraine to an associate in Connecticut, from where his co-conspirator retrieved them. Bell’s co-conspirator was convicted in 2010 after a jury trial and sentenced to 33 months in prison.

According to the indictment, Bell acquired the teeth and smuggled them into the United States. Bell, who was an artist and scrimshander, carved some of the teeth he sold, but also sold uncarved teeth to customers. According to papers filed in federal court, between July 2005 and June 2006, Bell smuggled in excess of 49 pounds of sperm whale teeth into the United States, valued in excess of $26,000. Also, according to these filings, between June 2007 and April 2008, Bell sold nine carved teeth to customers in the United States, with a total value of $20,300. 

The Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act protects sperm whales and prohibits their parts from being sold in interstate or foreign commerce or imported into the United States without a permit.

Artifacts from Hobby Lobby probe returned to Iraq

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ICE returned 3,800 ancient artifacts, including cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, and clay bullae, to the Republic of Iraq. The artifacts were smuggled into the United States in violation of federal law and shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer. Contributed photo.

 
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned 3,800 ancient artifacts, including cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, and clay bullae, to the Republic of Iraq. The artifacts were smuggled into the United States in violation of federal law and shipped to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer.

Many of the tablets can be shown to come from the ancient city of Irisagrig. The tablets, primarily from the Ur III and Old Babylonian period (2100-1600 BCE), are mostly legal and administrative documents, but also include an important collection of Early Dynastic incantations and a bilingual religious text from the Neo-Babylonian period. Two clay cones are inscribed with royal inscriptions from the Early Dynastic Lagash II periods (mid-third millennium BCE). The clay bullae include artifacts believed to be of Parthian or Sasanian date (late 2nd cent. BCE – early 7th cent. AD).

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Artifacts seized in Interpol operation

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A marble head was among the seizures made during the first joint customs and police operation codenamed Athena organized by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL, and the Europe-focused Operation Pandora II coordinated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol. courtesy photo

 More than 41,000 objects including coins, furniture, paintings, musical instruments, archaeological pieces and sculptures were seized in a global operation targeting the trafficking of cultural artifacts between October and December 2017.

The seizures were made during the customs and police operation codenamed Athena organized by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL, and the Europe-focused Operation Pandora II coordinated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol.

It included checks at airports and border crossing points, searches at auction houses, museums and private homes and monitoring of online markets.

In just one investigation in Spain, the Guardia Civil seized more than 2,000 cultural objects, the majority of which were coins from the Roman and other Empires.

Officials also seized 88 pieces of ivory as well as weapons including swords, a crossbow and 39 historical firearms ranging from rifles to pistols.

Other highlights:

· Argentinean Federal Police recovered the shell of a Glyptodon, an extinct mammal. The shell, estimated to be more than one million years old, was on sale for $150,000.

· Brazilian Customs seized a marble head hidden in a passenger’s suitcase. Verification of the piece’s provenance is ongoing.

· A painting by Nicolas de Staël worth approximately € 500,000 was intercepted by French Customs at the Gare du Nord in Paris as it was being smuggled to London.

· Searches of a businessman’s two homes and two commercial properties by Greek Police resulted in the recovery of 41 archaeological objects which did not have the necessary license. 

Tens of thousands of checks were carried out at airports and border crossing points across 81 countries. Auction houses, museums and private houses were also searched, resulting in more than 300 investigations being opened and 101 people arrested. courtesy photo.

Two charged with theft of relic gold bar

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  Two men have been charged in the theft of a gold bar from a Key West, Florida, museum in 2010. According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

The defendants are accused of driving to Key West from West Palm Beach on or about August 18, 2010, and entering the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum. It is alleged that Jared Alexander Goldman, 32, of Palm Beach Gardens stood guard as a lookout to enable Richard Steven Johnson, 41, of Rio Linda, Calif., to steal the gold bar. Johnson then allegedly removed the gold bar from its display case at the museum and both defendants then drove back to West Palm Beach. The gold bar has not been recovered.

The 75-ounce bar was originally found in 1980 in the wreck of the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita, which sank in 1622. It had been on display in an acrylic case that allowed museum visitors to lift the bar. 

It had been valued at $550,000.

More about the museum can be found here

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