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.