Sarcophagi Smugglers Busted in Brooklyn

07/15/2011 3:45 PM |

Despite its stereotypically Brooklyn disguise, the clandestine mumified corpse was apprehended on Wednesday.

  • Despite its stereotypically “Brooklyn” disguise, the clandestine mummified corpse was apprehended on Wednesday.

It’s been a bad month for New Yorkers attempting to offload stolen artifacts: first a sommelier from a fancy Meatpacking District restaurant was nabbed with a nicked Picasso drawing in California; and yesterday the Brooklynite who owns Midtown’s Windsor Antiques was arrested for his role in an international Egyptian artifact-smuggling ring.

According to the Daily News, Windsor Antiques owner Mousa “Morris” Khouli was involved in an elaborate international operation in league with antique dealers in Dubai and Michigan who smuggled sarcophagi and other historic artifacts on behalf of a collector in Virginia.

Federal prosecutors say Khouli sold the Chesterfield, Virginia collector Joseph Lewis many items between the fall of 2008 and fall of 2009, including “a Greco-Roman sarcophagus, Egyptian funerary boats and limestone figures.” Those items were seized on Wednesday during a raid of Lewis’ home, while agents found a sarcophagus at Khouli’s home in Brooklyn that he claimed belonged to his father but was traced to a 2009 deal in Ramadan.

Federal prosecutors will seek to have the items—which Khouli habitually labeled “antiques” and “wood panels” to slip past customs officials—returned to Egypt. Yesterday both Khouli and Lewis pleaded not guilty in a Brooklyn Federal Court, and each was released on $250,000 bail.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement special-agent-in-charge James Hayes, Jr., was hopeful: “It is the first time an alleged cultural property network has been dismantled within the United States.” In response to the bust, scores of sarcophagi-less mummies in Egypt reportedly lifted their curses.