Paintings, stone axes repatriated to Peru during a ceremony in Los Angeles


Kristi Koons Johnson, deputy director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, right, hosts a repatriation ceremony with representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Consul General of the Peruvian consulate in Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will return cultural pieces, some of which are 400 years old, following investigations by the FBI’s Art Crime Tea at FBI Headquarters in Los Angeles on Friday, April 22, 2022. The “Virgin of Guadalupe” oil painting, left, was stolen from the Church of the Apostle of Santiago, also known as “Saint James Apostle,” in Ollantaytambo, Peru, along with six other paintings. The oil painting “Pentecost”, in the middle, from the Baroque period of the 17th century was stolen from the Church of Santa Cruz de Orurillo in Puna, Peru. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


US officials repatriated 16 cultural objects to the Peruvian government, including paintings, historical documents and stone axes.

The FBI returned the items to Peruvian officials at a ceremony Friday in Los Angeles.

“These objects and the heritage they carry with them have made an opaque journey to the United States and now have a clear path back to Peru through the appropriate diplomatic channels,” said Kristi K. Johnson, Deputy Field Office Director. from the FBI in Los Angeles. in a report.

The objects include historical documents, a 17th century painting stolen from a Peruvian church in 1992 and a painting stolen from another church in 2002 which was transported to the United States by an art dealer, sold to a gallery owner in art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then sold in 2016 to a buyer in California, according to the release.

These artifacts were voluntarily turned over to the FBI, according to the statement.

“In these cases, the people who bought these items did the right thing. Once they realized they were stolen, they agreed to confiscate them,” said Liz Rivas, a special agent with the FBI’s Art Crimes Team.

For example, the person who owned the historical documents said they were bought as souvenirs in Peru and they were reselling them online to make money during the coronavirus pandemic, Rivas said. She said the person did not know they had been robbed and in this case the documents did not meet the minimum value for a criminal case.

The last four items were stone axes seized in Indianapolis in 2014 from the collection of amateur archaeologist Donald Miller. Thousands of artifacts were taken from Miller’s home and sent back to dozens of countries ranging from China to Papua New Guinea.

Authorities are encouraging buyers of art and artifacts to consult the FBI’s Stolen Art File before making a purchase to find out if the items have been reported as stolen.


This version of the story has been updated to correct the year the stone axes were seized from the collection of amateur archaeologist Donald Miller in Indianapolis. The year was 2014, not 2004.

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