An expert on international art and antiquity investigations and on customs and international trade law.

As a subject matter expert on international art and antiquities investigations and Customs and international trade law for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Senior Special Agent James McAndrew has distinguished himself in a 27-year career at the U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by investigating violations of U.S. Customs laws, international treaties and trade agreements and recovering more than 2,000 stolen or smuggled cultural artifacts from around the world. Examples include:

    • A Diorite Statue of the Sumerian king Entemena of Lagash, circa 2400 B.C. (stolen from the Iraq National Museum in April 2003; recovered in July 2006);
    • A Roman Marble Head of Marcus Aurelius, circa 100 B.C. (stolen from an Algerian museum in 2006, discovered at a New York auction in 2007, returned in 2008);
    • 100 Pre-Dynastic Egyptian Ma’adi artifacts, circa 3000 B.C. (stolen from a Cairo museum in 2002, recovered in 2008);
    • An Idol of Dasha Avatar Varaha, circa 9th century A.D. (stolen from a temple in Madhya Pradesh, India in March 2000; returned in 2006); and
    • Eight Bronze Age ceremonial objects looted from Afghanistan (returned to the director of the Afghanistan National Museum in 2008).

McAndrew is an active member of the U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Center’s Cultural Property Task Force, Interpol’s Cultural Property Task Force, and Interpol’s Iraqi Tracking Task Force. He has represented DHS at many international conferences on cultural property protection, law enforcement, investigation, recovery and restitution. His 2004 DHS training program, “Fighting Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property at U.S. Ports of Entry,” has educated more than 400 Customs and Border Protection Officers and 125 ICE Special Agents working at 39 ports of entry. McAndrew has also received many awards, including three Customs Commissioner’s Unit Citations for Outstanding Achievement in Customs Fraud and International Trade Enforcement, ten special Act and Service Awards, a Letter of Commendation from the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the recovery of the Statue of Entemena, and the Peter the Great Order of the Second Degree by the Russian Federation National Committee of Public Awards on November 8, 2007 for “Services and Significant Personal Contribution to the Return of Cultural Values Back to Russia”.


On Friday, October 29, 2010 over 120 people packed into John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater in New York City for the sold-out, fourth-ever SAFE Beacon Awards.

On this evening, SAFE honored four exceptional law enforcement officials who have fought on the frontlines of the illicit antiquities trade: Senior Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) James McAndrew, U.S. Attorney David Hall, former federal prosecutor and private practicing attorney Robert Goldman, and retired FBI Agent Robert Wittman.

SAFE’s founder Cindy Ho set the tone for the evening in her opening remarks, reiterating the organization’s mission to promote the stewardship of cultural objects which hold invaluable information about our shared history. She then introduced Dr. Richard Leventhal of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, who co-sponsored the event. Dr. Leventhal turned his attention to the audience, emphasizing the importance of public awareness and echoing what David Hall would say later in the night: “Every sleuth has a tipster.”

Marion Forsyth Werkheiser of the newly formed Cultural Heritage Partners moderated the lively panel, “A Fight for the Future” which at times, felt more like a reunion than a lecture, as all four Beacon Award winners have worked together on various cases and training programs.

The awardees’ brief individual presentations gave way to a spirited discussion about some of the challenges they have faced in the field. The four winners touched on the unfortunate difficulty in finding archaeologists, conservators and other academics who are willing to use their expertise to identify illicit antiquities. They also recognized that there was no shortage of art crime cases in the U.S., but the self-motivated government agents and federal attorneys who pursue those investigations must do so alongside murder cases, drug busts, car thefts and other work.

“Objects that you recover are going to be here for future generations,” Goldman said, and similarly, David Hall recalled Hippocrates’ famous maxim: “Ars langa, vita brevis” (Art lasts, life is brief).Obstacles aside, the awardees beamed while talking about the immense satisfaction that goes along with recovering objects that are part of a larger historical puzzle. And though these officials have collectively rescued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stolen art, they were emphatic that cultural artifacts are inherently priceless – the irresistible word of the night, as the award winners celebrated Wittman’s bestselling memoir of the same name, which he signed for audience members during the reception.

We would like to thank everyone who helped make October 29 an outstanding evening. SAFE again applauds Goldman, Hall, McAndrew, and Wittman for their exceptional work in the field and joins them in their hope that one day, their line work won’t be so exceptional.

We also wish to thank every one of the attendees who responded to our exit survey (an impressive 50%) and revealed that prior to the event, half of them were not familiar or only somewhat familiar with the issues. For this reason, this event’s outcome was especially rewarding given our mission to raise public awareness. We are grateful for the feedback we received, including the following:

  • “I enjoyed the presentations. Very informative! Never studied on this topic. Tonight I have learned and it has become a great interest to me.”
  • “I was not aware the scale and impact of looting. I am shocked!”
  • “Great very informative and entertaining.”
  • “The panelists were so compelling.”
  • “The presentation and the information were great and useful for the future.”
  • “Very interesting presentation. I’m more aware of the art business now.”
  • “This event is significant and should be shared with the public!”

Also, special thanks to the following:

Elizabeth Gilgan, Deanna Baker, Megan Gannon, Marc Balcells, Ellen Belcher, Glenda Chao, Ana Escobedo, Luke Glover, Athena Hsieh, Damien Huffe, Laura Moore, Tracy Musacchio, Heather Otto, Margaret Rivera, Rebecca Rushfield, Brooke Todsen, Gabriele Ursitti, Adam Witham, Hyuna Yong

“Very informative! Never studied this topic. Tonight I have learned and it has become a great interest to me.”E.J., New York City


Friday October 29, 2010
Lecture: Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 Tenth Ave, New York, New York

Download souvenir journal and “like” SAFE Beacon Awards on Facebook.

2010 SAFE Beacon Award poster

We thank the following organizations and individuals for their participation in the Souvenir Journal: