Ugly Sweater Party at Art Museum Takes Ugly Turn

Terracotta Army statue, on loan from China, was found to be minus a digit
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2018 7:11 AM CST
Thumb Theft in Philly Becomes International Incident
In a Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 photo, visitors look over some of the Terracotta Army soldiers on exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

What began as an Ugly Sweater Party has turned into an international incident. The BBC reports Michael Rohana was attending such a party four days before Christmas at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia when he allegedly entered a room that was closed to guests but, per the Guardian, had an unlocked door. Inside were 10 of China's famed 8,000 terracotta warrior statues, on loan from China. Xinhua reports on the FBI's allegations: that the 24-year-old took a selfie with the statues, touched the left hand of one and seemed to break something off it, then left. On Jan. 8, museum staffers discovered the statue he was said to have touched—valued at $4.5 million—was missing a thumb.

An investigation led to Rohana and his home in Bear, Del.; he allegedly confessed to having broken off the thumb and placed it in his desk drawer. An FBI affidavit states that a friend claims Rohana also Snapchatted a photo of the finger the day after the party, reports the Courier Post. China is incensed, with the head of the organization that loaned the statues to the US asking "that the US severely punish the perpetrator. We have lodged a serious protest with them." Two of the organization's members will travel to the US to see the damage first-hand and make the repair with the now-recovered thumb. China will seek monetary damages. Rohana has been charged with concealment of a major artwork and was released on bail after giving up his passport. (How was the Terracotta Army made? Ears reveal a clue.)

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