US man convicted of illegally importing ancient mosaic from Syria to California

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A US man from the state of California has been found guilty of illegally importing an ancient mosaic from Syria, federal prosecutors said.

Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi, 56, of Palmdale, was convicted by a jury Wednesday on one count of “entry of falsely classified goods,” the US attorney’s office said in a news release.

The mosaic, which depicts a tale from mythology in which Hercules rescues Prometheus, dates to the Roman Empire, prosecutors said. Authorities believe it was looted from war-torn Syria.

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According to prosecutors, Alcharihi purchased the mosaic for $12,000 and falsely classified its value and quality when it was imported through the Port of Long Beach, California.

It arrived as part of a container shipment from Turkey that was declared as ceramic tiles worth less than $600. The approximately 2,000-pound (907-kilogram) mosaic was trucked to Alcharihi’s home, where federal agents seized it from his garage in 2016.

Alcharihi had paid $40,000 to restore the mosaic and a government appraisal expert valued it at $450,000, the US attorney’s office said.

Alcharihi faces up to two years in prison. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Augusut 31.

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