The former Beverly Hills antiquities dealers Jonathan and Cari Markell were sentenced by a federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday for their roles in an antiquities smuggling and tax evasion scheme that triggered sweeping raids on California museums in 2008.
On 24 January 2008, federal agents served warrants to 13 institutions that received objects through the Markells, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum, and the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana
. Some critics later called the raids overzealous, noting that despite a major investigation, the government failed to successfully argue for jail time in the criminal trials that followed.
That changed on Monday
, when Jonathan Markell, 70, was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by a year of supervised release for making false declarations while importing antiquities from Southeast Asia, according to court records. Markell and his wife Cari, 68, were also sentenced to probation for their role in a related tax evasion scheme in which looted antiquities were donated to local museums in exchange for inflated tax write-offs.
The couple was also ordered to pay $25,000 to cover the costs of repatriating hundreds of ancient objects seized by federal agents in raids on their Los Angeles home and the now closed Silk Roads Gallery.
Federal prosecutors hope the sentence sends a strong message to those involved in the illicit trade, said Assistant US Attorney Joseph Johns in an interview on Wednesday. “If the gallery owner can go to prison, so can you the buyer,” he said.