LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Federal authorities are looking to take ownership of an authentic mosaic from the Byzantine era which they allege was illegally smuggled into the U.S. by a Palmdale man nearly three years ago.
The U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday filed an asset forfeiture complaint for a large mural depicting Hercules, likely created in the 3rd or 4th century, which was seized from the home in March 2016 by FBI and Homeland Security agents. The mural is currently in the possession of the FBI.
At 18 feet long, 8 feet high and weighing 2,000 pounds, the mural believed to have been looted during the Syrian civil war.
According to the DOJ, Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi brought the mural to Los Angeles County, along with a shipment of vases and other mosaics, in August 2015. At the time, he claimed in false paperwork that the entire shipment was valued at only $2,200. However, he later said he paid $12,000 for the shipment, the DOJ reports.
However, authorities believe the single mural is worth far more than $12,000, after an expert hired by the FBI determined that it is “an authentic mosaic from the Byzantine Period depicting Roman mythology, and was consistent with the iconography of mosaics found in Syria, in particular in and around the city of Idlib, Syria,” the complaint reads.
It’s unclear exactly where the mural would be moved if prosecutors win the complaint.