A Palmdale, Calif., man was convicted by a federal jury Wednesday of illegally importing a nearly 2,000-year-old ancient Roman floor mosaic from Syria into the United States.
According to the United States Department of Justice, 56-year-old Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi purchased the 15-by-8 foot mosaic from Turkey in 2015.
Prosecutors claimed he paid $12,000 for the piece and did not correctly classify the artwork. Instead, the case alleges that Alcharihi lied to his customs broker, saying he was importing ceramic tiles valued at less than $600.
A government appraisal expert, however, valued the mosaic at $450,000.
The mosaic depicts a story from ancient Greek and Roman mythology depicting the demigod Hercules rescuing Prometheus, who had been chained to a rock by Zeus for stealing fire for humanity.
Upon its purchase by Alcharihi, the mosaic was smuggled inside a shipping container holding many vases and two other mosaics. An x-ray image of the container taken by US Customs showed …