ICE RETURNS ANCIENT ARTIFACTS TO PERUVIAN GOVERNMENTValued at more than $1 million, nearly all are Pre-Columbian
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michael J. Garcia, the Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), returned 41 ancient artifacts worth more than $1 million to Eduardo Ferrero, the Peruvian Ambassador to the United States, in a ceremony today at the Embassy of Peru.
“It is my pleasure to return these cultural treasures to the people of Peru on behalf of the United States,” said Assistant Secretary Garcia. “These items are not souvenirs to be sold to the highest bidder, but priceless treasures that hold an important place in Peruvian culture. ICE will do everything in its power to apprehend those who rob and profit from the sale of a nation’s heritage.”
“This brief ceremony is another example of the true collaboration between two governments mutually interested in absolute respect of the cultural identity of their peoples, said Ambassador Ferrero. Without the collaboration of the United States Government, the Department of State, and in particular Immigration Customs Enforcement represented here by Assistant Secretary Michael Garcia, our country would not be able by its self to recovery these pieces that have an enormous historical value, even greater than economic worth,” said Ambassador Eduardo Ferrero.
The artifacts were smuggled from protected archeological sites in Peru by individuals who sought them for their personal collections or who intended to sell them for profit. Dating from 100 A.D. to 1,530 A.D., the items come from the Mochica, Chimu, and Chancay cultures. They include a rare mother-of-pearl knife, gold and plaque ornaments, nose jewelry, copper pins, pottery, pottery sherd, and textile fragments.
ICE agents recovered the artifacts presented today through three different investigations into antiquities smugglers and dealers in several U.S. states.
In one case, ICE agents in Virginia arrested 74-year-old Taddeo Barchitta of Virginia, after he attempted to sell a collection of Peruvian artifacts to undercover ICE agents in a sting operation. Some of these artifacts, including a number of well-preserved textiles, were more than 1,000 years old. ICE agents recovered 21 items that were determined to be Pre-Columbian. Barchitta pleaded guilty to violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and was sentenced on Dec. 12, 2003 in the Eastern District of Virginia.
In June 2001, ICE launched another investigation into a Colorado man who traveled to Peru to combine his two pleasures: rock climbing and illegally collecting pre-Columbian ceramic artifacts. ICE agents in Oregon determined that the individual visited archeological sites in Peru, purchased pre-Columbian artifacts from site looters, and then smuggled them into the United States. Typically, he concealed the items in his rock climbing gear to avoid detection by border inspectors. ICE seized 19 antiquities that were determined to be Pre-Columbian. The climber forfeited all claims to them.
In a third case, ICE agents in San Jose, California, received information that a local resident had a collection of pre-Colombian artifacts. In September 2003, ICE agents took possession of the collection and determined that most of the collection was counterfeit. However, ICE agents found that one piece was authentic and Pre-Columbian. The collector is presently a fugitive.