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February 9, 2017Washington, DC, United StatesCultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations

Man convicted of smuggling artifacts from Pakistan into the US

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A New Mexico man was convicted Thursday by a federal jury for multiple crimes, including his role in a conspiracy to smuggle ancient artifacts into the United States from Pakistan. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Geographic Association.

According to evidence presented at trial and court records, Ijaz Khan, 42, of Sante Fe, New Mexico, was part of a conspiracy that smuggled ancient artifacts into the U.S., including pottery and bronze weapons stolen from burial sites and coins from a cave temple in Pakistan called the Kashmir Smast. Khan and Vera Lautt, 57, also of Santa Fe, used their business, Indus Valley, to sell the artifacts. One shipment of artifacts was stopped at Dulles International Airport in October 2013. Khan and others then attempted to obtain the shipment by submitting various false and fraudulent documents to CBP. 

Khan was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States, procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully, conspiracy to smuggle goods into the United States, smuggling goods into the United States, mail fraud, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and obstruction of an official proceeding. Lautt was convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and naturalization fraud.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Khan and Lautt submitted fraudulent documents to the U.S. Department of State and USCIS, which enabled Khan to immigrate to the United States in 2003 and later become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. In order to further the conspiracy, Khan and Lautt concealed Khan’s wife and children in Pakistan. The conspiracy included 10 separate attempts to obtain immigration benefits by fraud, five of which were successful and another five of which were still pending as of the date of indictment. According to court records, Khan used his fraudulently-obtained U.S. citizenship to cause the fraudulent immigration and naturalization of his four oldest children. Khan also filed petitions on behalf of his brother, mother and two youngest children. 

Khan faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while Lautt faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Both will be sentenced May 5. 

Updated: 02/13/2017