Monday, 14 December 2015

Dealer goes to Prison

From the Merkells' website
An antiquities dealer who ran a complex Los Angeles-based tax fraud scheme involving looted artefacts was sentenced Monday for making false declarations in customs documents in order to bring stolen archaeological objects into the United States (Hillary Jackson, '[...] Looted artifacts, tax scheme send ex-antiquities dealer to prison', My News LA, December 14, 2015). Part of the defendants’ plea agreement was that the couple will pay $25,000 to return dozens of stolen antiquities seized in 2008 from their home and gallery to Thailand, Cambodia and other countries of origin. This case is part of the 2008 South California Museum Raid group of investigations covered on this blog way back when. The wheels of the US justice system grind slowly.
Jonathan Markell, 70, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson to 18 months behind bars followed by a year of supervised release. An undercover federal agent and an expert in Southeast Asian antiquities both testified about the extent of the smuggling scheme, which, according to prosecutors, duped Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and other institutions. Also Monday, Markell and his 68-year-old wife, Cari — who operated the now-defunct Silk Roads Gallery in the 100 block of North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles for 10 years — were sentenced to probation for operating a related tax evasion scheme in which the couple “packaged” and sold smuggled artifacts to give clients tax write-offs when the items were donated to local museums. A $1,500 “package” typically included antiquities from Ban Chiang, Thailand, along with false sales invoices to reflect an earlier sales date, and a fraudulently inflated $5,000 appraisal that contained a bogus expert’s signature, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns.
The judge said Markell’s prison sentence “will send a message to what I think is a community that will pay attention,” referring to art administrators and artefact dealers. He obviously knows nothing about the world of these people. Take notice of anything is the last thing any of them will do or are capable of.

Jessica Dietzler was saying in her seminar presentation that  we should rather feel sorry for people who go to prison for culture crime because "prison is not a nice place". American prisons in particular if we remember the tragic Roxanna Brown case connected with this one. I would ask however whether educated people who do these things involving artefacts know that they are doing something wrong (yes, of course they do) and they are arrogant enough to think "they can't touch me for it".

Is the gallery "defunct"? The website is still active

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