U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection have released a statement announcing the return of 334 objects to the Peruvian government.
Of particular interest is how the objects were seized:
On March 1, 2007, a CBP officer at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport referred Lanas-Ugaz, who had just arrived from Lima, Peru, for a secondary examination. During CBP’s inspection of Lanas-Ugaz’s luggage, officers noted several items in bubble wrap, including a clay figurine of a man in a chair and clay bowls. CBP officers held the five items as possible pre-Columbian Peruvian artifacts, which are protected under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. CBP contacted ICE, which had the artifacts evaluated by archeologists from the American Museum of Natural History. Museum archaeologists confirmed that the items are authentic pre-Columbian and have significant cultural value.Four days later, ICE, CBP and Laredo Police Department officers executed a federal search warrant at Lanas-Ugaz’s home in Laredo. They discovered many additional authentic artifacts, which included: textiles, ceramic figures, wood sculptures, and metal and stone art. All the items had been illegally exported from Peru into the United States. Lanas-Ugaz, a U.S. citizen, was arrested at his home without incident.
Lanas-Ugaz reached a plea agreement:
Lanas-Ugaz pleaded guilty May 16, 2007, to one count of knowingly and fraudulently importing into the United States merchandise that is against the law to sell, and receiving stolen goods. On Sept. 13, 2007, he was sentenced to three years probation and a $2,000 fine; he also paid $100 to a crime victims’ fund.
That’s a pretty slight sentence for a crime which carries a maximum punishment of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. One thing the press release does not discuss is why the sentence was so slight, and if Lanas-Ugaz is continuing to trade in antiquities.
According to the Department of Justice press release in 2007, Lanas-Ugaz operated a website, perularedo.com, which offers Pre-Columbian artifacts for sale. A simple google search of “perularedo” reveals there is an ebay seller, by that name selling antiquities from Peru, the last sale appeared to be as recently as September 2008.
One wonders if this antiquities dealer has decided to cooperate? Has he left the antiquities trade for good? Is he continuing to sell antiquities under a different name?