Antiquities smuggling: Growing problem at US ports





Three years ago, an elderly Italian man pulled his van into a South Florida park to sell some rare, 2,500-year-old emeralds plundered from a South American tomb. But Ugo Bagnato, an archaeologist, didn't know his potential customer was a federal agent.

Bagnato flashed the green gems, which were as large as dominoes, and explained to the immigration and customs agent that he had bribed South American authorities and used fake paperwork to smuggle the highly illegal goods into the United States.

Authorities discovered Bagnato had a cache of more than 400 artifacts from Peru and Colombia, all predating Columbus' arrival in the Americas: burial shrouds, jewelry, terra cotta pots and other treasures were wedged in boxes in his van and kept in a storage unit.



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