As alleged in the indictment, from October 2008 through November 2009, Lewis purchased a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, a nesting set of three Egyptian sarcophagi, a set of Egyptian funerary boats and Egyptian limestone figures from Khouli, who earlier acquired those items from Alshdaifat and Ramadan. Each of these antiquities was exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States using a variety of illegal methods intended to avoid detection and scrutiny by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“Customs”). Specifically, the defendants allegedly made false declarations to Customs concerning the country of origin and value of the antiquities, and provided misleading descriptions of the contents on shipping labels and customs paperwork, such as “antiques,” “wood panels” and “wooden painted box.”
Most of the smuggled antiquities have been recovered by law enforcement. The innermost sarcophagus of the nesting set was seized during a search of Khouli’s residence in September 2009. The middle sarcophagus and most of the outer sarcophagus were seized in November 2009, after they arrived via sea cargo at the Port of Newark, New Jersey. The Greco-Roman sarcophagus, funerary boats and limestone figures were seized during a search of Lewis’s residence on July 13, 2011. A civil complaint seeking forfeiture of Egyptian sarcophagi, Iraqi artifacts, cash and other items seized in connection with the government’s investigation was also unsealed this morning in Brooklyn federal court.
The press release stresses: "The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty".