WEST VALLEY CITY — Two West Valley City residents who allegedly helped smuggle ancient Peruvian artifacts into the United States are among four people facing federal criminal charges.
Homeland Security Investigations began looking into the alleged smuggling operation last fall during which time an undercover agent made a $3,000 down payment to Cesar Guarderas, 70, of West Valley City, for two pieces of pottery. A month later, agents bought 10 more pieces for $20,000.
Professors at Utah Valley University and Tulane University, who are experts in Peruvian culture, examined the artifacts and deemed them authentic, according to federal authorities. The items were also tested at a laboratory in Washington.
In December, agents in Salt Lake City detained a package from Peru en route to the Guarderas residence containing eight artifacts. Agents went to the home a few days later and Guarderas turned over eight additional artifacts from his garage, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
Agents also received nine artifacts that an undercover agent bought and had shipped from Peru, the complaint says.
Guarderas told agents that Javier Abanto-Sarmiento has access to more than 100 pieces of pottery in Peru and was willing to send them to the United States, according to the complaint. Abanto-Sarmiento allegedly bribed officials in Peru to get the artifacts out of the country. Guarderas said the National Institute of Culture in Peru provides him with authentic certifications declaring the pottery and that Abanto-Sarmiento uses them to illegally export genuine artwork from Peru.
A federal indictment charges Guarderas, Rosa Isabel Guarderas, 45 of West Valley City, and Javier Abanto-Sarmiento, 39, and Alfredo Abanto-Sarmiento, 36, both Trujillo, Peru, with smuggling and interstate transportation of stolen property. Isabel Guarderas is a sister of the two Peruvian men. The Guarderases are naturalized U.S. citizens.