Feds Raid Bowers!


According to the Orange County Register “A federal search warrant was executed at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana this morning as part of a criminal investigation involving agents for the IRS”.  A spokesman for the IRS said that warrants were served at Bowers and other locations as part of an investigation involving the IRS, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the National Parks Service. 

According to the Los Angeles Times the raid was, “the first public move in a five-year investigation of an alleged smuggling pipeline that authorities say funneled looted Southeast Asian and Native American artifacts into local museums”.  Authorities allege that the Bowers along with Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego accepted, some “knowingly”, stolen artifacts.

According to the allegations made in the warrant, “A senior curator at the Bowers Museum, now deceased, regularly accepted loans of objects he knew were looted from Thailand and Native American graves. The museum’s current director, Peter Keller, also allegedly knew about the practice and had visited storage lockers where the looted items were kept. An appraiser claimed Keller participated in the donations scheme.”

Bowers Museum receives over $2,000,000 in Santa Ana taxpayer subsidies each year has long been a sore spot with many residents.  The people of Santa Ana shell out the money to operate the place and get very little in return.  Rather than focusing on art and history relative to Latin American culture and having exhibits that would be of interest to Santa Ana’s overwhelming Latino population, the folks at the Bowers have taken a elitest Eurocentric approach in hopes of attracting a more “ethnically appealing” audience.

Mayor Miguel Pulido serves on the museums Board of Governors and Councilman Carlos Bustamante serves on the Presidents Advisory Council for the museum helping to insure that the taxpayer subsidies keep flowing its way.  Both are good friends and major supporters of Keller.  It will be interesting to see the outcome of the criminal probe and interesting to see what they knew and when they knew it.  Perhaps this will help lead to an end to the waste of taxpayer funds in regards to Bowers Museum and open up a further criminal probe into political corruption in Santa Ana.

  10 comments for “Feds Raid Bowers!

  1. anonymous
    January 24, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    to say that a man now deceased was knowingly accepting looted goods when he is not able to defend himself or present his side of the story is a rather seemingly convenient approach to blame. i happened to work at Bowers when the “now deceased senior curator” was on staff and know the type of person he was; he had dedicated his life to that museum and his students- educating people about different cultures and foreign affairs. He donated his own money to establish the research library supplying the majority of books available to research staff. His focus was on global cultures and his primary concern was bringing a multitude of cultures to Santa Ana- fighting for exhibitions of Latin American art at the forefront of his ambitions, however as anyone who works in a museum will agree a person of his position is only as capable of developing exhibitions as the demands of those who fund exhibitions and supply material for display will allow. If the city of Santa Ana wants a greater showing of Latin American cultures in that space demand it, protest, petition the city council and make your concerns known, I can tell you from personal involvement that their are an overwhelming number of people inside that museum that want the same thing and they remain powerless to make that administrativedecision-there are a few patriarchal figures making all the decisions regarding what is seen in Bowers.
    concerning “looted grave goods” there is a fine line between stolen possessions that are infiltrated knowingly into museums and those that are obviously looted grave goods (i.e. mummies for example from the British Museum also on exhibition at Bowers). How is it decided which is stolen for wrong-doing and makes it in to a museum and which is stolen from it’s tomb but from certain people with the intention of preservation when both end up in the same place.

  2. Anonymous
    January 24, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Will Sal Tinajero speak out against these crimes publicly or will the Mayor pull Sal’s strings tight?

  3. January 24, 2008 at 2:26 pm


    Sal is 1 of 7 members of the city council. Will any of them speak out? Should any of them speak out until they know all the facts?

    Sounds to me as if you have been drinkin’ the “Orange Juice” and simply trying to create an aura of impropriety around Sal.

    Why the obsession only with Sal in regards to this issue?

  4. Anonymous
    January 24, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Is Sal content with being silent on issues and not taking a leadership role just like his colleagues on the Santa Ana City Council?

    The Mayor kicked Sal’s butt during the 2006 campaign, but when Sal got elected, he became one of the Mayor’s lap dogs.

    When people voted for Sal, they were hoping that he would take stands and provide leadership on causes that would help the residents of Santa Ana where many of those on the City Council had failed.

    Now, we can add Sal to that list of City Councilmembers who have failed the residents of Santa Ana.

  5. January 24, 2008 at 4:41 pm


    Sal has failed the residents? How so?

    Thanks to him there is an agreement between the schools and the city to keep the libraries open later so that kids have somewhere to study. Thanks to him the council meetings are more accessible to the Spanish speaking community.

    Is this what you consider failing the community?

    I guess if I use your formula then Michele Martinez has failed the community as well. What has she managed to get done?

  6. Anonymous
    January 24, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    What does Sal’s failures have to do with Michelle?

    Sal was part of the group of Councilmembers that would not even second a motion to televise both City Council meetings. How is that making them more accessible to anybody?

    Please elaborate agreement between the schools and the city to keep the libraries open.

  7. Anonymous
    January 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Sal, what is this agreement between the schools and the city to keep the libraries open that you speak of?

  8. Mitzy Moo
    January 27, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    If you read the search warrants, which you can download from the Times or the Register, the now deceased curator is the individual who accepted the donations on behalf of the Bowers and had many meetings with the people who smuggled the goods into the country. It is sad he is no longer alive to defend himself, but if half of what is in the warrant is accurate, he did accept illegal goods.
    The Bowers has done an excellent job of bringing world-class exhibits to Orange County as well as maintain extensive exhibits on Orange County history and Pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas. To say the Museum is Eurocentric is absurd since it’s biggest exhibits lately have been from China and Tibet. Even the things from the British Museum aren’t Eurocentric, unless Egypt and Yemen have moved to a different continent. I suggest everyone who writes go visit the Bowers and form their own judgement. But go before the end of March, because that’s when the Mummies go back.

  9. Mitzy Moo
    January 27, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    The Bowers is FREE to Santa Ana residents on the First Sunday and Third Tuesday of every month.

    Just show your driver’s license at the admissions desk on these days.

  10. January 27, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Mitzy Moo,

    The point is that the Bowers has ignored, for the most part, the culture of the people they are happy to take tax money from…two million a year to be exact.

    Why is the Bowers free only two times a month, and on days they choose instead of us? It should be free to Santa Ana residents at least twice a month, on days of OUR choosing. And we ought to pay half price the rest of the time – and our kids ought to get in free all the time.

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