Feds Seize Roman-Era Mosaic Smuggled From War-Torn Syria
LOS ANGELES (Courthouse News) – Heracles lies at the center of federal forfeiture proceedings in Southern California, after an 18-foot, one-ton ancient mosaic depicting the mythological hero smuggled from war-torn Syria was recovered from a home by federal agents.
The mosaic likely dates to the third or fourth century and was found at the Palmdale home of Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Alcharihi has been the center of an FBI investigation since 2015.
Agents have been looking into Alcharihi’s suspected involvement with “smuggling looted items believed to be from a foreign conflict area into the United States,” according to a forfeiture complaint filed this week in the Central District of California.
Prosecutors say Alcharihi hired a California customs broker in August 2015 to process paperwork to import items into the United States. Soon after, three mosaics and 81 vases arrived at the Port of Long Beach near Los Angeles.
According to documents submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Alcharihi said the items were valued at approximately $2,200. He later told federal agents he paid $12,000 for the mosaics and vases, prosecutors say, adding the value of the ancient mosaic is likely much higher.
Federal agents say this Roman-era floor mosaic depicting the Greek mythological figures Heracles, Zeus and Aphrodite was smuggled from Syria into Southern California.
(U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California)