Hobby Lobby is settling federal antiquities smuggling charges by paying $3 million and returning thousands of clay artifacts from Iraq. The company said it purchased the items because of a "passion for the Bible," and Hobby Lobby President Steve Green admitted they "should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled."
In 2009, Green and a consultant went to the United Arab Emirates, where they looked at engraved seals, clay impressions, and thousand-year-old cuneiform tablets. The criminal complaint says Hobby Lobby's lawyer was warned that the items might be looted, and stressed the importance of making sure their country of origin was marked on customs forms. Instead, prosecutors said, 5,500 artifacts from Iraq were shipped without proper documentation, with labels calling them "ceramic tiles" or "samples" from Turkey and Israel. Hobby Lobby also didn't pay the dealer who sold the items, but wired $1.6 million to seven different people. Green said moving forward, Hobby Lobby will further investigate such purchases.