ICE searches stone retailer

CORONA DEL MAR — Special enforcement agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement served a search warrant Tuesday morning at the Phoenician Stone, a decorative stone and mantel retailer, and then lined up various slabs of stone and boxes along the sidewalk in front of the store.

Nobody was arrested during the ICE search, but Virginia Kice, a regional spokeswoman for the federal agency, said it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation, the details of which will be released in the future.

"This was not an immigration matter," she said. "This was customs-related, but that's all I can tell ... believe me, I like a good story and when everything comes out, I'll be able to comment on it. But right now we're dealing with allegations and there have been no charges filed."

Newport Beach police assisted ICE in the raid, according to Corona del Mar Today, an online news blog and Daily Pilot media partner.

According to the Phoenician Stone website, the owners of the store at 3034 E. Coast Hwy. are Joseph and Ron Sage, the grandchildren of Joseph Sage Sr., who first got the idea for starting the business in the 1940s.

"When World War II ended, he started his general contracting company," according to the website. "Contracts he secured included working in historical medieval alleyways along ancient Roman and Grecian ruins. Soon his passion for architectural antiques turned into a family business that his grandsons and his family members in Europe still manage to this day."

Phoenician Stone, with locations in Corona del Mar and Los Angeles, is more showroom than store.

It mostly deals in types of stone that, according to the website, "is a sight for all history buffs to see."

"The flooring is a collection of pavers and stones, samples of what customers can purchase, that average in age from hundreds to thousands of years old," the website states.

"Old world relics, mantles, Roman and Byzantine mosaic flooring suspended on walls, columns from Corinthian Greece mixed with hand-carved replicas crafted by Phoenician Stone artisans fill up the well-lit space. Every piece offers a story about ancient times."

When reached by phone this afternoon, a man who answered as a "Mr. Sage" declined comment.

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