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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tampa ICE agents help return priceless statues home to the DR

They are priceless pieces of history that look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.

"These articles date back to 2000 B.C.," said Special Agent in Charge Susan McCormick with Homeland Security.

Agents say an unknown number of people were smuggling dozens of ancient statues and ancient tools out of the Dominican Republic. Many of the relics were found packed up, passing through warehouses in Florida. Agents even stopped and arrested one accused smuggler red-handed at Orlando International Airport.

"In his possession, he had seven additional figurines," McCormick said.

On Thursday, the U.S. government returned the artifacts to Dominican officials.

The investigation began when agents searched an Orlando warehouse three years ago and found suspicious import packages that were marked "stone figurines".

The items were confiscated, but then other similar packages began to arrive throughout the state.

A University of Florida curator helped identify the artifacts that were likely intended for sale online or on the black market.

"Everybody is out to make a buck and these people intended to sell these and get the highest price for the antiquities," said McCormick.

Florida wasn't the only place where agents found the stolen artifacts. More packages with other antiquities were also found in Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

Source: ABC Action News

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