Two dozen indicted for theft of Indian artifacts

The Obama administration announced the indictments of 24 people in connection with the theft of Indian artifacts in the Four Corners.

The bust was the result of a two-year undercover probe. With the help of a former dealer, federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management and the Federal Bureau of Investigation tracked down the people who were stealing and selling artifacts from public and Indian lands in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

“Let this case serve notice to anyone who is considering breaking these laws and trampling our nation’s cultural heritage that the BLM, the Department of Justice, and the federal government will track you down and bring you to justice,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a press conference in Utah yesterday. “As these alleged criminals are prosecuted and as federal agents continue to hunt down wrong doers, BLM cultural resources staff will work to ensure the proper recovery, identification, repatriation, and storage of the artifacts that have been confiscated.

"Looters robbing tribal communities of their cultural patrimony is a major law enforcement issue for federal agencies enforcing historic preservation laws in Indian Country,” added Larry EchoHawk, the new leader of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "Today's action should give American Indians and Alaska Natives assurance that the Obama administration is serious about preserving and protecting their cultural property."

Federal agents have identified more than 250 artifacts stolen by the ring, with an estimated value exceeding $335,000. A wide range of items, including pottery, masks, headdresses, clothing and funerary objects, were among those recovered.

Get the Story:
23 People Are Arrested or Sought in the Looting of Indian Artifacts (The New York Times 6/11)
Looters move artifacts and destroy their value (The Salt Lake Tribune 6/11)
Artifact thefts targeted by federal officials (The Salt Lake City Deseret News 6/11)
Agents Search Home for Artifacts (The Albuquerque Journal 6/11)
24 indicted in Four Corners artifact theft probe (AP 6/10)
24 indicted in theft of Native American artifacts (CNN 6/10)
Indictments in alleged looting of ancient Four Corners burial sites (Denver Business Journal 6/10)

Relevant Documents:
DOI Press Release: Federal Agents Bust Ring of Antiquity Thieves Looting American Indian Sites for Priceless Treasures | DOJ Press Release: Arrests Made in Operation Targeting Network Selling Stolen Native American Artifacts | Remarks of Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden at a Press Conference

Related Stories:
Salazar, EchoHawk in Utah for press conference (6/10)