Death in Antiquities Arrest

The LA Times is reporting today that Roxanna Brown, a 62 year old antiquities expert and director of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum at Bangkok University has died in police custody. Brown was the first arrest to emerge from the antiquities raids on Southern California museums back in January.

Roxanna Brown, 62, director of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum at Bangkok University, had traveled to Seattle for a speaking engagement at the University of Washington, authorities said…

Officials said Brown was too ill to attend a court hearing Monday in Seattle but made a brief appearance Tuesday. She faced up to 20 years in prison if found guilty….

But federal investigators asserted that Brown allowed her electronic signature to be placed on fake appraisal forms that inflated the value of pieces from Thailand’s Ban Chiang archaeological site that were sent to Southern California museums. The phony appraisals allowed collectors to claim fraudulent tax deductions, according to authorities.

This has been a strange investigation from the outset. There was a massive search of California museums in January, and then nothing has emerged in the five months until this week when Brown was arrested, seemingly because she was visiting the country on a speaking engagement, and now this death. There are no indications Brown was mistreated, though certainly the sketchy details give the appearance that the shock of being arrested led to a heart attack. Certainly this is a tragic death, and not the kind of message Federal authorities wanted to send.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Death in Antiquities Arrest”

  1. 5 years of investigation, 300 FBI agents, dawn raids on prestigious museums (and all this during a period of America’s history when those agents would surely have been better employed dealing with National Security issues) and all the FBI can do is arrest a timid, obscure art historian and allow her to die in custody. She leaves a 15 year old son in Bangkok.

    Pathetic hardly covers it!

  2. Truly tragic. The federal government of the United States is a complete disaster right now. They resort to heavy handed tactics over the most minor infractions and misunderstandings. This is but one of many examples.

  3. Subsequent reports state that Dr. Brown died of peritonitis related to a gastric ulcer rather than a heart attack. That does not make her death any less tragic, though.

  4. I can only say what that our gov’t has become gestapo like as we have instilled a homeland security aura to anything and everything that doesn’t quite fit their frame of what should be…how can a civilized society incarcerate a 62 year old handicapped lady that has devoted the later years of her life to discovery, history and preservation of Asian antiquities…an electronic signature…shame on those who orchestrated this fiasco leading to the death of my dear friend.

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