As crews work to repair an ancient artifact damaged during an Ugly Sweater Party inside a Philadelphia museum, Chinese authorities are calling for the accused thief who allegedly took the thumb home with him to be severely punished.
Federal authorities say a Delaware man snapped a selfie before stealing part of a $4.5 million Terracotta Warrior statue on display at the Franklin Institute.
According to an arrest affidavit filed Friday, 24-year-old Michael Rohana was attending a 21-and-over Ugly Sweater Party at the museum on Dec. 21 when he entered the "Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor" exhibit, which was closed.
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Rohana took photos while posing next to a statue, known as “The Cavalryman,” which is on temporary loan from China, authorities said. He then snapped off the statue’s left thumb and put the thumb in his pocket, authorities said.
Museum staff noticed the missing thumb Jan. 8, and the FBI traced it to Rohana five days later. While interviewing Rohana in his Bear, Delaware home, the FBI recovered the missing thumb in a bedroom drawer, according to the federal court filing.
The theft drew ire back in China.
The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, which loaned the artifacts, “strongly condemned the vandalism," according to Chinese government-run news agency CGTN. They called on American authorities to severely punish the suspect.
Though valued in the millions, the true value of the warrior statue is hard to determine.
"You cannot put a monetary value on something like the Terracotta Warriors," Southwestern University Asian art history associate professor Allison Miller told NBC News. "They were only produced at one time in history. And, once they are destroyed, there is nothing that can replace them."
A museum spokeswoman says the statue will be repaired. She says a security contractor did not follow standard procedures the night of the alleged theft.
No trespassing signs are posted at Rohana's home. He has been appointed a federal public defender and has been ordered by a judge to surrender his passport to the court no later than February 23. While Rohana has been brought in on a warrant only, the case has not yet been indicted.