The owners of Hobby Lobby, a popular craft store chain, have reportedly been the subjects of a years-long federal investigation into alleged illicit importation of artifacts from Iraq, according to a Daily Beast report.
Citing an unnamed law enforcement official, the outlet reported that authorities have been looking into the Green family since 2011, when 200 to 300 ancient clay tablets with text written in cuneiform were purportedly seized by U.S. Customs agents in Memphis, Tennessee.
It is widely known that the Greens have a vast array of biblical artifacts, which will be put on display in the highly anticipated Museum of the Bible that is slated to open in Washington, D.C. in late 2017.
Customers walk to a Hobby Lobby store in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The seized tablets were also reportedly intended to be part of the museum's collection, though the Daily Beast reported that the Green family — pending the results of an investigation — could be forced to hand them over to the government or end up paying fines, if found guilty.
"There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork — incomplete paperwork that was attached to it," museum president Cary Summers told the Daily Beast, with the outlet questioning why such a benign logistical problem would take four years to resolve.
Summers continued, "Sometimes this stuff just sits, and nobody does anything with it."
But an unnamed source said that hundreds of hours of interviews have been amassed in connection with the tablets, which are said to be thousands of years old, leading the Daily Beast to speculate that the situation is far more complex than a mere bureaucratic delay.
Some are speculating that the tablets, which were possibly precluded from leaving Iraq due to their deep ties to the history and cultural heritage of the region, were misrepresented in customs documents in an effort to get them through to the U.S. more easily.
An unnamed source did tell the Daily Beast that this was, indeed, the case, claiming that the tiles were described as "hang-crafted clay tiles" and were given only a $300 monetary assignment for each, which would purportedly greatly undervalue them.
"Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts]?" Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green told the outlet. "That’s possible."
Customers walk into a Hobby Lobby Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Dallas. (AP)
Repeated attempts were made by the Daily Beast too the Green family's Christian values and the allegations that tablets were improperly brought into the U.S. Read the piece in its entirety here.
A statement from Hobby Lobby read, "Hobby Lobby is cooperating with the investigation related to certain biblical artifacts intended to be exhibited at the planned Museum of the Bible. The Museum of the Bible is a separate not-for-profit entity made possible, in part, by the generous charitable contributions of the Green family."
As TheBlaze has extensively reported, this is not the first time that the Hobby Lobby owners have been the center of controversy, with a Supreme Court battle that led to an exemption from the Obama administration's controversial contraceptive mandate last year as well as a highly publicized fight over a Bible curriculum that the Greens have been developing for public schools.
It was announced in August that the Museum of the Bible received permission from the National Treasures Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority to display countless biblical artifacts found in Israel for years to come.
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