NEW YORK: An American army helicopter pilot faces charges of selling stolen Egyptian antiquities dating to 3,000 BC, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Chief Warrant Officer Edward George Johnson was arrested Tuesday in Alabama on charges of transportation of stolen property and wire fraud, US Attorney Michael Garcia said.
An attack-and-scout helicopter pilot and commander, Johnson, 44, was stationed in Cairo in September 2002 when about 370 artifacts were stolen from a storage area at the Maadi Museum in Cairo, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. The items, dating to 3,000 BC or earlier, had come from an archaeological site excavated in the 1920s and 1930s.
Johnson allegedly contacted a Texas art dealer in January 2003 and offered to sell a collection of Egyptian antiquities, saying his grandfather acquired them while working in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s, prosecutors said.
The dealer paid around $20,000 for the 80 pieces, which were later consigned to galleries and collectors in New York, London, Zurich, and Montreal, according to prosecutors.
The government said experts who examined photographs of the pieces, later determined the majority of the items Johnson sold had been stolen from the Egyptian museum.
Prosecutors did not say how Johnson obtained the antiquities.
Johnson could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. His lawyer, Christine Freeman, did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. -Agencies