It's 2007. An American gentleman is traveling in Buenos Aires, browsing the city's antique district for treasures. A Rolling Stones fan, he stumbles upon a unique piece of artwork depicting Mick Jagger, which he purchases for $2,000 to display in his Phoenix, Ariz., home. Unbeknownst to him, the silkscreen print is an original Andy Warhol. Created in 1975, it is numbered 66 of 250 pieces and boasts the signatures of both Jagger and Warhol. It was stolen from an art collector's residence in Argentina in 2005.
In 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Phoenix began working with INTERPOL, the world's largest international police organization, to locate the artwork. Their search led them to the home of the gentleman who visited Buenos Aires just a year earlier. With his cooperation, the ICE attaché office in Argentina returned the print to its rightful owner in March 2011.
ICE HSI plays a leading role in investigating crimes involving the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property. ICE HSI uses its investigative authority to seize cultural property items if they were illegally imported into the United States. It also investigates the illegal trafficking of artwork, especially works that have been reported lost or stolen. ICE's Office of International Affairs, through its 67 attaché offices worldwide, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations whenever possible.
More than 2,300 artifacts have been returned to 18 countries since 2007; including paintings from France, Germany and Austria, an 18th century manuscript from Italy, and a bookmark belonging to Hitler as well as cultural artifacts from Iraq including Babylonian, Sumerian, and neo-Assyrian items.
Learn more about ICE's Cultural Properties, Art and Antiquities Investigations.