LOS ANGELES – A Palmdale man was charged Friday with illegally importing a mosaic depicting the Roman god Hercules that is believed to have been made nearly 2,000 years ago.
Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi, 53, was named in an indictment that charges him with one count of entry of goods falsely classified, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment alleges that Alcharihi claimed he was importing a mosaic and other items valued at $2,199, when in fact he was importing an ancient mosaic worth much more than that. The indictment, filed in Los Angeles federal court, also alleges that he misrepresented the quality of the mosaic and what the artwork depicted, prosecutors said.
According to court papers, the Byzantine Period mosaic is 18 feet in length, 8 feet in height, weighs 2,000 pounds and likely originated in Syria.
Alcharihi will receive a summons to appear for an arraignment that will likely take place next month.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Art and Antiquity Investigations group and Homeland Security Investigation’s Los Angeles Public Safety Group.
The government is pursuing forfeiture of the mosaic, which was seized by FBI and HSI agents in 2016, in both the indictment and a 2018 asset forfeiture complaint.