Silk Roads Design Gallery offers unique selections of Asian art, antiques, furniture, antiquities, accessories, jewelry, gifts, books and more. Our collection of Asian religous art is the most significant and distinctive in the country. Our elegant galler
South and Southeast Asian Arts Council of the LA County Museum
Board Member of the Southeast Asian Council
Pacific Asia Museum
Board Member and Programs Chair
Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles
Jonathan M. Markell, 70, a resident of the Westchester district of Los Angeles and the owner of Silk Roads Design Gallery (which previously was located on North La Brea Avenue and now operates in the Jefferson Park district of Los Angeles), was sentenced by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who called Markell's crimes "significant."
Markell previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle stolen antiquities into the United States by making false declarations to U.S. Customs authorities.
In a second case, Markell pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit tax fraud.
Markell admitted smuggling antiquities from Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and China into the United States for sale in his art gallery.
Markell knew that many of the antiquities had been looted from the site of an ancient civilization located in Ban Chiang, Thailand, which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated as a "World Heritage" site.
An expert on Southeast Asian archaeology testified in court that the looting of the Ban Chiang sites, which are thousands of years old, to supply galleries like Markell's was "devastating to the archaeology of Thailand."
Once in possession of the looted antiquities in the United States, Markell engaged in a tax fraud scheme by promoting and participating in a false charitable deduction scheme.
After obtaining the Thai antiquities, most of which were from the Ban Chiang culture, Markell bundled the antiquities into "charitable donation packages" that were donated to charitable institutions such as museums and universities.
Markell prepared fraudulent appraisals in order to falsely inflate the value of the antiquities, and he provided the appraisals to co-conspirators, who used the fraudulent documents to claim inflated charitable donation tax deductions.
For example, during the investigation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Jonathan Markell of the Silk Roads Gallery discouraged an undercover agent from trying to pass any questionable material to the museum by stating that collections managers at LACMA were "sticklers for having good provenance" .
Agents searched the museums for objects and records tied to the investigation's main targets: 79-year-old art dealer Robert Olson, identified as "the smuggler," and Jonathan Markell, owner of the Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles, which was raided as well.
Markell and Olson sold such artifacts to clients such as Chicago-based collector Barry L. MacLean, whose collection of Thai artifacts and Cambodian daggers was seized a few days after the California raids.
Marcia Page, deputy director of collections at PAM, met with the undercover agent in November 2005 to discuss a donation of objects the agent had purchased from Markell.
The museums and art-pilferers arenâ€™t the good guys here as they are in the "Indiana Jones" movies as an ever-widening scandal envelopes the art and museum worlds at its highest levels. Art Museum Scandal Grows: Tax Fraud, Artifact Looting Alleged. Museu
The other suspect is Jonathan Markell, co-owner of the Silk Roads Gallery on La Brea Avenue.He runs the gallery with his wife Cari and specializes in Asian and Buddhist art.
Markell unwittingly divulged info to the undercover agent as well.
According to the warrant, he went so far as to suggest that LACMA knew of looted pieces, but had pursued them anyway.
He also said they were "sticklers" for doing background checks on pieces.
"They knew," claimed Markell, about an artifact, which was sought after by LACMA.
It was an item, which was shipped from Thailand after a law passed prohibiting the export of the item in question, said the warrants.
"Markell said that LACMA had found a loophole, but he was not clear on what that loophole was."
Both the art world and the public will soon know what's to come of the matter, following the government's multiple searches, and when and if, charges are filed against the Olson, Markell and usually upstanding institutions.
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