Special Agent Marty Hamlin of Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) in Baltimore was charged with the task of tracking down and returning a rare 16th-century book that had been stolen from Italy. His unit is an arm of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office, which took over the case in September of 2013.
While agents of an HSI office in Rome were following the book closely after it was stolen, when it was sold in an auction house in the Italian capital, Hamlin found the trail and within a few weeks had recovered the stolen book.
Hamlin found it in the possession of library curators from John Hopkins University in Baltimore who had purchased the book from the Italian auction. Hamlin said that the library staff members at Hopkins were quite shocked when Homeland Security agents showed up.
The book, “Historia natural di Ferrante Imperato Napolitano,” is one of only 19 cultural treasures that have been recovered by HSI agents and returned to Italian officials.
While HSI agents are best known for finding human traffickers and drug smugglers, they often take on cases that involve the illegal importation and distribution of antiquities. This particular team of agents works with a number of foreign governments on joint investigations.
Currently, the HSI has 63 attaché offices in 46 different countries. HSI also has offices in the United States, and ironically, one is located at the historic U.S. Custom House located in Baltimore. Approximately 100 agents are actively investigating immigration fraud, money laundering, cybercrimes and a number of other crimes inside and outside of the U.S.
HSI agents have aided in the return of over 7,200 artifacts to 30 different countries since 2007 and have been credited with tracking down paintings that originated from Austria, Poland, Germany and France, as well as artifacts from Iraq, Cambodia and China.