updated 2/6/2008 7:57:07 PM ET 2008-02-07T00:57:07

An Army helicopter pilot faces charges of selling stolen Egyptian antiquities dating to 3000 B.C., federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Chief Warrant Officer Edward George Johnson was arrested Tuesday in Alabama on charges of transportation of stolen property and wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said.

Johnson, 44, was stationed in Cairo in September 2002 when about 370 artifacts were stolen from the Ma'adi Museum near Cairo, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. The items, dating to 3000 B.C. or earlier, had come from an archaeological site excavated in the 1920s and 1930s.

Johnson contacted an art dealer in January 2003 and offered to sell a collection of Egyptian antiquities, saying his grandfather acquired them while working in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s, prosecutors said. Some items were later consigned to galleries in New York, London, Zurich and Montreal.

The government said experts determined the majority of the items Johnson sold had been stolen from the Egyptian museum.

Prosecutors did not say how Johnson obtained the antiquities. He was not charged with their theft, however.

Johnson could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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