More than 4000 pre-Columbian artifacts were returned to Mexico today.
The items were tracked down in parts of Arizona, California, Illinois, Montana and Texas.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, a total of 11 investigations uncovered the 4,000-plus items that were in the United States illegally.
At the Mexican Consulate in El Paso Thursday afternoon, relics were put on display and representatives from the U.S. and Mexican governments officially transferred the items back to Mexico.
Consul General of Mexico in El Paso Jacob Prado said the return of ancient artifacts is important to the Mexican people and heritage.
Acting Special Agent Dennis Ulrich said smugglers will loot and steal from historic Mexican sites and museums in hopes of making money in America.
Ulrich recalled an investigation in Alpine, Texas that began in 2009. It lead to the seizure of more than 4,000 items-- a rare find and the bulk of Thursday's return, according to Ulrich.
Some of the artifacts transferred to Mexico include Metates, Manos, copper hatchets, a clay anthropomorphic statue, a Chinesco Nayarit figurine, pre-Columbian pottery, arrows, spears, axes, tomahawks, beads, sandals and Aztec whistles.
(Oct. 2012 story)