Smuggled Egyptian artifacts seized by U.S. agents
* Four men charged with running illicit artifacts ring
* Shipments from UAE to New York antiquities gallery
* Charges carry up to 20 years in prison
By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, July 14 (Reuters) - A set of 2,000-year-old sarcophagi and other Egyptian antiquities were smuggled into the United States by a black-market artifacts ring and recovered by U.S. law enforcement agents, officials said on Thursday.
Charges unsealed in Brooklyn federal court in New York accused four men of conspiring to smuggle the Egyptian artifacts in what one U.S. official described as a groundbreaking case against trafficking in cultural property.
The men charged -- Mousa Khouli, Salem Alshdaifat, Joseph Lewis and Ayman Ramadan -- were accused of evading customs officers by misrepresenting the nature of their cargo during border inspections. They also were charged with plotting to launder money.
All the suspects live in the United States, except Ramadan, a Jordanian citizen living in the United Arab Emirates.
From October 2008 until November 2009, according to court papers, Lewis bought an array of Egyptian artifacts from Khouli, including a Greco-Roman style sarcophagus, a nesting set of three sarcophagi, a set of funerary boats and limestone figures. Continued...