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Feds Probe Hobby Lobby Owner Over Imported Antiquities

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Hobby Lobby craft store chain president Steve Green speaks following a Feb. 12 press conference at the site of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The museum is expected to be completed in 2017. (Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 26 Oct 2015 10:16 PM

Federal investigators are looking into the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, on suspicion of smuggling ancient artifacts into the country illegally, The Daily Beast reports. 

The probe is based on a 2011 shipment of 200-300 small clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform. It was the script of ancient Assyria and Babylonia, which were located in the area of present-day Iraq. The tablets were thousands of years old.

The Greens are deeply religious evangelical Christians, and the tablets were to be a part of their upcoming Museum of the Bible, which is scheduled to open in Washington, D.C. in 2017.

Museum President Cary Summers confirmed the seizure of the tablets and the federal investigation, according to The Daily Beast.

A successful prosecution would likely result in forfeiture of the tablets and a hefty fine, though The Daily Beast notes the biggest damage to the family would be to its reputation.

The company closes its stores on Sundays so its employees can attend church and won a 2014 Supreme Court decision that allowed it to opt out of an Obamacare provision to provide certain contraceptives as part of its health care program because they believe they amount to abortion.

Summers said the seizure was essentially a "logistical" issue, the website reported, though it appears the investigation is more serious.

Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green told the website there could be illegally-obtained antiquities in his family's collection, but that they had no prior knowledge if that were so.

"Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts]? That’s possible," Green said.

But the way the artifacts were shipped appears to be otherwise, according to The Daily Beast. The tablets were marked "tile samples" and were valued at $300. They are worth far more.

Further, mislabeling such artifacts is one method people use to get them past customs.

"Informal entry" is used for any shipments for items with a monetary value below $2,500 and "formal entry" is used for items above that value. Devaluing the items, or marking them as from a different country of origin than they truly are from, are methods of disguising illegally obtained antiquities and pushing them through customs more quickly.

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Federal investigators are looking into the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, on suspicion of smuggling ancient artifacts into the country illegally, The Daily Beast reports.
federal, investigation, hobby lobby, owners, importing antiquities
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2015-16-26
Monday, 26 Oct 2015 10:16 PM
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