A Brooklyn man was arraigned Thursday on charges that he smuggled mummy coffins through New York City ports.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Mousa Khouli, 37, alleging that he sneaked in Egyptian artifacts more than 2,000 years old using his midtown antiques business. Khouli used his business to sell the priceless items, according to prosecutors.
Khouli and Joseph Lewis, part of the alleged smuggling ring, were arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court. Another man, Salem Alshdaifat, was arraigned separately in Michigan on Wednesday.
Officials said the three men shipped Egyptian antiquities from the United Arab Emirates to the United States by lying to customs officials, telling them the objects were “wood panels” or just a “painted box.”
Instead, when officials searched Khouli’s business and his Brooklyn home, they found several centuries-old Greco-Roman Egyptian sarcophagi, the coffin-like receptacles where mummies were stashed. They also found hidden Egyptian funerary boats, a three-part coffin dating back to approximately 600 B.C. and a thousand antique coins.
Nabbing smugglers bringing in mummy coffins is a first for federal prosecutors here in Brooklyn.
“We’ve had a few cases where we’ve recovered stolen art,” said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York. “But I don’t recall sarcophagi,” he added. “Coffins, no.”
Each man faces up to 20 years in prison.
The artifacts will likely be shipped back to Egypt.