Palmdale Man Found Guilty of Illegally Importing an Ancient Roman Mosaic from Syria Depicting Hercules

The recent verdict in the case of a Palmdale man illegally importing an ancient Roman mosaic from Syria depicting Hercules. Read more here.

In a significant legal development, a man residing in Palmdale has been found guilty of illegally importing a valuable Roman mosaic from Syria that portrays the legendary figure Hercules. The individual, identified as Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi, was convicted on the charge of falsely classifying the imported ancient artwork, which is believed to have been created almost two thousand years ago during the Roman Empire. Alcharihi concealed the true value and quality of the mosaic and illegally imported it from Turkey, claiming it to be ceramic tiles of lower worth. It is estimated that the mosaic, measuring 15 feet in length and weighing approximately 2,000 pounds, has a value of $450,000. The sentencing hearing for Alcharihi is scheduled for August 31, with a potential maximum sentence of two years in federal prison. The investigation into this illicit import was conducted by the FBI’s Art Crime Team and Homeland Security Investigations – Los Angeles, Ventura Division.


Palmdale Man Found Guilty of Illegally Importing an Ancient Roman Mosaic from Syria Depicting Hercules


The recent verdict in the case of a Palmdale man illegally importing an ancient Roman mosaic from Syria has highlighted the ongoing issue of cultural heritage protection and the illicit trade in antiquities. This article will provide an overview of the case, the significance of ancient Roman artifacts, and international efforts to preserve cultural heritage.


Overview of the case

In this case, a Palmdale resident, Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi, was found guilty of illegally importing an ancient Roman mosaic depicting Hercules. The mosaic, dating back nearly two millennia, was falsely classified and illegally brought into the United States from Syria. The trial revealed the methods used for concealment and transportation, shedding light on the illegal trade in ancient artifacts.

Description of the mosaic

The mosaic in question depicts the story of Hercules rescuing Prometheus, a tale from ancient Greek and Roman mythology. It measures 15 feet long, 8 feet tall, and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. The mosaic is a valuable piece of art with significant cultural and historical importance.

Importance of ancient Roman artifacts

Ancient Roman artifacts, such as mosaics, provide valuable insights into the life, culture, and history of the Roman Empire. They offer a glimpse into the craftsmanship and artistic techniques of the time, allowing us to better understand the ancient world. The preservation and study of these artifacts are essential for the broader understanding of human history.

International efforts to protect cultural heritage

There are various international efforts aimed at protecting cultural heritage and combating the illegal trade in antiquities. The United Nations, for instance, has adopted resolutions condemning the destruction of cultural heritage, particularly in conflict zones like Syria. These resolutions call for the preservation and repatriation of stolen artifacts, as well as cooperation among nations to curb the illicit trade.

The Defendant

Name and age of the defendant

The defendant in this case is Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi. He is 56 years old and resides in Palmdale, California.

Residence in Palmdale, California

Alcharihi is a resident of Palmdale, a city in the Antelope Valley region of California. Palmdale is known for its diverse population and is home to many cultural institutions and heritage sites.

Charges and Trial

Charge of entry of falsely classified goods

Alcharihi was found guilty of one count of entry of falsely classified goods. The evidence presented at the 4½-day trial proved that he illegally imported the mosaic by falsely classifying it as ceramic tiles of lower value and quality.

Evidence presented at trial

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence detailing the false classification of the mosaic and the methods used to conceal and transport it. This evidence included documentation, customs records, x-ray images, and expert testimonies.

Duration of the trial

The trial lasted for 4½ days, during which the prosecution presented its case and the defense had the opportunity to present counterarguments and evidence.

Illegal Importation

Method of illegal importation

Alcharihi illegally imported the mosaic by misclassifying it as ceramic tiles, thus evading the restrictions and regulations on the importation of cultural heritage items.

False classification of the mosaic

Instead of accurately disclosing the mosaic as a Syrian antiquity worth a substantial amount, Alcharihi falsely declared it as less valuable ceramic tiles from Turkey. This deceptive classification allowed him to bypass regulations and import restrictions.

Importation from Turkey

The mosaic was imported into the United States from Turkey as part of a larger shipment. Turkey serves as a key transit route for illicitly traded artifacts, making it challenging to trace the origins of these cultural heritage items accurately.

United Nations resolution on cultural heritage destruction in Syria

The illegal importation of the mosaic took place months after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria. Terrorist organizations, such as ISIL and Al-Nusrah Front, have been particularly responsible for the looting and destruction of cultural artifacts in the region.

Mosaic Description

Depiction of Hercules rescuing Prometheus

The mosaic depicts the story of Hercules rescuing Prometheus, a popular tale from ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Hercules, a Roman demigod, rescues Prometheus, who had been chained to a rock by his fellow gods for stealing fire for humanity. The scene showcases the heroism and strength of Hercules.

Story from ancient Greek and Roman mythology

The story of Hercules rescuing Prometheus carries symbolic significance in ancient mythology. It represents the triumph of good over evil and the courage to defy the gods for the betterment of humanity.

Dimensions and weight of the mosaic

The mosaic measures 15 feet long, 8 feet tall, and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. Its large size and intricate design demonstrate the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who created it.

Value and Restoration

Price paid by the defendant

Alcharihi purchased the mosaic in 2015 for approximately $12,000. However, the true value of the mosaic far exceeds this initial purchase price.

Appraisal value of the mosaic

The government’s appraisal expert valued the mosaic at $450,000, highlighting its cultural and historical significance. The appraisal value underscores the importance of preserving and protecting such ancient artifacts.

Cost of restoration

Alcharihi spent $40,000 to restore the mosaic to its original condition. Restoration is a crucial step in preserving ancient artifacts and ensuring their long-term viability.

Concealment and Transport

Container and shipment details

The mosaic was concealed within a large metal shipping container, alongside numerous vases and two other mosaics. This method of concealment aimed to deceive customs officials and evade detection.

X-ray image revealing concealment

An x-ray image taken by CBP revealed the hidden location of the mosaic within the container. It was strategically placed at the front and covered by a pile of vases, making it less visible during routine inspections.

Transportation method to the defendant’s home

After passing through customs, the mosaic was transported to Alcharihi’s home via truck. The method of transportation further demonstrates the calculated nature of the illegal importation and the lengths taken to maintain secrecy.

Contact Information

Media relations contact

For media inquiries and further information about this case, please contact Thom Mrozek, the Director of Media Relations, at or by phone at (213) 894-6947.

In conclusion, the case of the Palmdale man found guilty of illegally importing an ancient Roman mosaic from Syria highlights the ongoing challenges in preserving cultural heritage. The illegal trade in antiquities poses a threat to the historical record and our understanding of ancient civilizations. By enforcing strict regulations, raising awareness, and promoting international cooperation, we can work towards safeguarding these valuable artifacts for future generations.