A Brooklyn man was indicted Monday for allegedly smuggling hundreds of ancient Egyptian artifacts through JFK International Airport earlier this year.
The United States Attorney’s Office says Ashraf Omar Eldarir arrived at the airport on Jan. 22 with three suitcases of what he claimed to U.S. Customs and Border Protection as goods valued at about $300. But when agents opened Eldarir's suitcases, they found 590 Egyptian antiquities wrapped in bubble wrap and foam.
Many of the items, which included gold amulets, a relief with the cartouche of a Ptolemaic king and wooden tomb model figures dating to 1900 BCE, smelled of wet earth, indicating that the artifacts had been recently excavated, authorities said.
“These cultural treasures traveled across centuries and millennia, only to end up unceremoniously stuffed in a dirt-caked suitcase at JFK,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.
Eldarir failed to provide any required documentation from Egypt authorizing the export of the artifacts, prosecutors said. The 47-year-old, who was originally arrested in February, was charged with one count of smuggling, and also another count of smuggling involving a different trip in which he smuggled an ancient Egyptian polychrome relief.
If convicted, Eldarir faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each count.