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Federal Agents Raid LACMA

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Photo by Fire Monkey Fish via flickr.

Forget medical marijuana storefronts, the feds have found a new kind of place to storm into -- museums. Today, four Southern California museums, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, were raided in an attempt to bust an "alleged illegal smuggling of Southeast Asian and Native American artifacts."

The search warrants, which were executed shortly after 7:30 a.m., gave agents the authority to search the museum's galleries, storage areas offices and computers. The targets of the investigation are Robert Olson, an alleged art smuggler, and Jonathan Markell, the owner of Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles, which also was raided Thursday. According to the warrants, the men illegally smuggled looted artifacts from Thailand, Myanmar, China and Native American sites and sold them to Southern California art museums. Some of the museums' curators knew the artifacts were illegally or suspiciously purchased, according to the warrants. [CBS2]

The multi-year investigation included the IRS and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement among other agencies.
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In an lengthy, in-depth report, the LA Times finds that "in the case of the Bowers and the Pacific Asia museums, the warrants clearly suggest that museum officials were aware that the objects were looted and overvalued and accepted them anyway." However, for LACMA, it's unclear.