A Fox News Channel video engineer is facing charges of looting Iraqi artwork
as the U.S. government tries to crack down on souvenir scavenging and theft of
valuables from the war-torn country.
Charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., accusing
Benjamin James Johnson, 27, of trying to ship home one-dozen paintings from Iraq
last week, in violation of U.S. anti-looting policy.
According to reports, Johnson, an engineer for Fox News, was part of a news
team following U.S. troops as they inspected a palace belonging to Odai Hussain,
son of now-deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussain. Prosecutors believe it was
there that he acquired the dozen paintings depicting the Iraqi leader and his
On April 17, U.S. Customs agents at Dulles International Airport found the 12
paintings stuffed in a cardboard box. According to the affidavit, Johnson at
first told agents that he was given the paintings by a group of Iraqis and that
he planned to give one piece to his employer while keeping the rest for
Customs agents searching Johnson's luggage also found 40 Iraqi Monetary
Bonds, according to reports.
Johnson is set to appear before a federal magistrate next week.
The network has since fired him.
In all, items ranging from gold-plated firearms to antique ornamental knives
to paintings have been seized recently in various U.S. border airports,
according to reports.