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."
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.
admitted smuggling antiquities from Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and China into the United States for sale in his
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.
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.