In a story that sounds more like a Mad Libs gone awry, Hobby Lobby is being forced to return smuggled Iraqi artifacts the company imported 2011.

Yes, that Hobby Lobby, the company that sells all kinds of, well, hobby related things. Crafts and whatnot. Apparently amidst the glue guns and ribbon, the store also wanted to branch out into ancient artifacts, according to this NBC News report:

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby will pay $3 million to settle a federal case over smuggled Iraqi antiquities it bought to demonstrate its “passion for the Bible.”

The Oklahoma-based retailer also agreed to forfeit thousands of clay artifacts it bought in 2010 — an acquisition that prosecutors said was “fraught with red flags” the company didn’t heed.

In a statement, Hobby Lobby President Steve Green acknowledged “regrettable mistakes” that he chalked up to inexperience.

“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Green said, adding that the firm fully cooperated with the investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

This is a very odd story, akin to finding out that Dollar General illegally imported Mayan gold to color their signs, or Ulta buying black market rhino horn for a special concealer.

So how’d it happen?

In 2009, the company decided to amass a collection of books and artifacts “consistent with the Company’s mission and passion for the Bible.” Green and a consultant traveled to the United Arab Emirates to inspect cuneiform tablets that were thousands of years old, along with engraved seals and the clay impressions they made.

According to a civil complaint, an expert hired by Hobby Lobby had warned its in-house lawyer that there was a risk the items it wanted to buy had been looted and counseled them to make sure the country of origin was properly labeled on customs forms.

Instead, prosecutors said, the 5,500 artifacts were shipped without proper documentation, with labels that described them simply as “ceramic tiles” or “samples” from Turkey or Israel. The company didn’t pay the dealer who supposedly owned the items, instead wiring $1.6 million in payment to the accounts of seven other individuals.

Ceramic tile! Like they were going to redo the floors at various strip mall locations with ancient artifacts!

What an odd company.


About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.