Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

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PaleoRob
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Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by PaleoRob » Jun 17 2009 9:31 pm

No, you ex-hippies, not marijuana. Pots, the prehistoric kind.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... ct-thieves
Last week, federal agents swooped in on 23 of the 24 people indicted on charges of stealing archaeological artifacts from public land and Indian reservations in the Southwest. But after a 60-year-old physician committed suicide over the weekend, Utah senators are saying the raid was overkill.

The arrests were made following a two-year operation codenamed “Cerberus Action,” after the multi-headed dog in Greek mythology that guards the underworld. The case involves 256 Native American artifacts including woven baskets, pots, sandals, and an ax, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation values at $335,685. Defendants were charged with violations of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), which prohibits the excavation and sale of artifacts from public land or Indian land, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which requires items retrieved from burial sites and other sacred objects to be returned to Indian tribes.

Throughout the Four Corners region where the operation was centered, the University of Utah once paid locals $2 for an ancient pot, and the artifact-collecting mentality never seems to have faded. “I’m guilty of arrowhead collecting,” 60-year-old defendant and Moab, Utah, resident Brent Bullock told ScientificAmerican.com, “as is two-thirds of this town.”

Bullock, a former oil worker on disability who lives with his wife, is ticked off about finding himself in the spotlight. And he's not alone in complaining about a raid that also hit Durango, Colo., and Blanding, Utah. One sheriff has called the feds’ tactics “heavy-handed,” and on Sunday Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett demanded a Congressional investigation of the raids that included 300 federal agents, including a SWAT team.

The sting began in October 2006, when the FBI recruited a longtime dealer in archaeological artifacts, whose name has not been revealed, to purchase artifacts under video and audio surveillance. The challenge was not only to purchase artifacts, but to have the seller admit their provenance on public land. Melody Rydalch, the U.S. Attorney spokeswoman in Utah, would not comment on whether their "confidential source" had been implicated in previous crimes, but that is often the way agents recruit sources.

According to one affidavit, on December 11, 2007, the FBI’s dealer visited the house of a 55-year-old high school math teacher named David Lacy. Lacy’s home was filled with “hundreds of illegal artifacts,” and Lacy sold the dealer $11,200 worth, including a blanket made of turkey feathers and yucca leaves. But before the purchase was complete, the dealer pulled out a map of public land, and Lacy pointed at the spot where the blanket was retrieved. Then, the FBI’s dealer requested that Lacy sign a document, called a Letter of Provenance, indicating that the items were actually found on private property.

Bullock has a similar tale. According to court records, on July 26, 2007, he tried to sell a blanket fragment, fireboard, and stone hoe known as a Tchamahia. In a phone interview, he said that, like Lacy, he was also asked to identify the spot where the items were obtained and he subsequently signed a Letter of Provenance. He says agents later showed up at his house, placed his arrowheads and other artifacts in bags, and photographed them although they did not have permission to seize his or any other artifacts yet. “They ripped this place apart,” he says. “This town is all stirred up.”

Although Archaeology magazine has attributed a spate of looting in the Southwest to methamphetamine users, only two defendants had records of drug possession. Over the weekend, James Redd, a 60-year-old physician who has previously been caught trespassing on Native American burial sites, committed suicide. For the most part, however, many of the defendants, who ranged in age from 27 to 78, were like Bullock and appear to have clean records, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

But federal agents dispute the notion that those arrested were mere hobbyists, and professional archaeologists are pleased the artifacts could one day be placed in public collections. That’s no consolation for Bullock who could be looking at jail time for five felonies. “I’ve been treated like a felon, and I hope I’m not a felon,” he says. “I made the wrong decision.”
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Jim_H
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Jim_H » Jun 17 2009 9:47 pm

Federal sting on "pot hunters" made me think of something completely different.
Rocks!!

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big_load
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by big_load » Jun 17 2009 11:30 pm

I have no sympathy for looters, and I'm disappointed that elected officials would go to bat for them. It gives the appearance that they disapprove of theft in principal, but not in practice.

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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by azbackpackr » Jun 18 2009 4:31 am

I don't sympathize with them either. It's not as though they didn't know it was illegal. Everyone in small towns in the Southwest (including mine) knows that it's illegal. And for this guy to commit suicide over it, well, he must have had other mental issues to go that far.
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sirena
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by sirena » Jun 18 2009 5:57 am

Bullock, a former oil worker on disability who lives with his wife, is ticked off about finding himself in the spotlight. And he's not alone in complaining about a raid that also hit Durango, Colo., and Blanding, Utah.
Really? Maybe he should have thought of that when he was stealing artifacts.

People need to realize that once an artifact is removed from its context, you lose a lot of information that could be gained from the artifact. It's not just the location it was found, but the layer of soil it was found in that is important.
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Nighthiker
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Nighthiker » Jun 18 2009 7:08 am

Some of the sites I visit looks like WW1 trench warfare, local law usually looks the other way. Need more stings.
jk

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Jeffshadows
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Jeffshadows » Jun 18 2009 8:07 am

Nonsense!! They are lucky the fibbys didn't haul all of their sorry back-ends off to Leavenworth in leg irons. The real story is that these jackals don't want to get a real job. I hope every red-handed one of them is convicted and jailed.
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fotogirl53
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by fotogirl53 » Jun 18 2009 11:57 am

It's kinda like when the "authorities" condoned polygamy by looking the other way. Oh--polygamy, pot hunting, 4 corners area, the main religion of the area (and I'm not talking about the Native Americans)--I've always believed that money was the driving force, not truth or obeying the law. (Let me know, Joe, if this is too political to touch on this website!)
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Jeffshadows » Jun 18 2009 11:58 am

fotogirl53 wrote:It's kinda like when the "authorities" condoned polygamy by looking the other way. Oh--polygamy, pot hunting, 4 corners area, the main religion of the area (and I'm not talking about the Native Americans)--I've always believed that money was the driving force, not truth or obeying the law. (Let me know, Joe, if this is too political to touch on this website!)
Don't apologize for having an opinion and you may be completely right in your analysis. Personally, I couldn't care less *why* the authorities bust people for wrongdoing as long as they *do* bust them. :)
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Jeffshadows » Jun 18 2009 11:59 am

P.S. - I think the polygamy thing was really more about child abuse than having a lot of wives.
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SuperstitionGuy
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by SuperstitionGuy » Jun 18 2009 12:37 pm

In the early 1960's it was my goal to become an archaeologist but there was no money in it at the time. IE - no jobs unless you had a Masters degree or higher. Therefore I detest those that would disturb these ancient sites. Now I live in Utah and believe me most people up here are glad the Fed's are finally cracking down on those idiots that wreck havoc on these sites.

But as a sidebar item I find the following quote a little humorous. Most politicians that I have met are on the take for all they can get. By the time they are in their second term of office they should all be investigated and thrown in jail. There is almost no honest politicians anymore. How do like the "change"?
big_load wrote:I have no sympathy for looters, and I'm disappointed that elected officials would go to bat for them. It gives the appearance that they disapprove of theft in principal, but not in practice.
A man's body may grow old, but inside his spirit can still be as young and restless as ever.
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big_load
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by big_load » Jun 18 2009 2:54 pm

Of course a politician is free to make a distinction in approving theft by others as opposed to their own theft. :sl: What's sad is that appearing to condone theft is not a political risk, which means they don't think the rest of us care, either.
Last edited by big_load on Jun 18 2009 3:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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writelots
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by writelots » Jun 18 2009 3:00 pm

I say huzzah for the sting. There's nothing people hate more than being caught at a crime they've been committing for years... People know it's illegal, and they profit from it.

It makes me shake my head.
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thebrayer
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by thebrayer » Jun 18 2009 5:36 pm

The Feds are alway heavy handed and always over kill on everything they do. I've experenced this first hand ten years ago when I lived in Young, Az. The local fed cited me for cutting tree limbs on a trail in back of our house. The story is that we had had a snow storm in late April and it had broken 22 limbs due to the weight of a very heavy snow. We had our mule club due up for a ride and I went out and trimmed these dead limbs off the trail. For this the citation was for 6,000 dollars and six months in jail. To be determined in court. I don't trust anyone working and citing these types of cases. I drew this case out over twelve months by pleading not guilty and finally after the feds spent about 15,000 dollars getting ready to go to trial I pleaded guilty and paid a 150 fine. Your tax dollars at work. The only good thing to come of this is that federal officer left me alone after that.

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Jeffshadows
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Jeffshadows » Jun 18 2009 5:51 pm

thebrayer wrote:The Feds are alway heavy handed and always over kill on everything they do. I've experenced this first hand ten years ago when I lived in Young, Az. The local fed cited me for cutting tree limbs on a trail in back of our house. The story is that we had had a snow storm in late April and it had broken 22 limbs due to the weight of a very heavy snow. We had our mule club due up for a ride and I went out and trimmed these dead limbs off the trail. For this the citation was for 6,000 dollars and six months in jail. To be determined in court. I don't trust anyone working and citing these types of cases. I drew this case out over twelve months by pleading not guilty and finally after the feds spent about 15,000 dollars getting ready to go to trial I pleaded guilty and paid a 150 fine. Your tax dollars at work. The only good thing to come of this is that federal officer left me alone after that.
I'm sorry for your experience but I disagree with your characterization. We need more enforcement across the board, not less. Less new laws, more enforcement of existing laws. My $0.03...
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dysfunction
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by dysfunction » Jun 18 2009 6:06 pm

ya, more unenforced laws do no good other than provide a short 'feel good' sensation to the lawmakers.
mike

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big_load
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by big_load » Jun 18 2009 9:19 pm

Jeff MacE wrote:
thebrayer wrote:The Feds are alway heavy handed and always over kill on everything they do. I've experenced this first hand ten years ago when I lived in Young, Az. The local fed cited me for cutting tree limbs on a trail in back of our house. The story is that we had had a snow storm in late April and it had broken 22 limbs due to the weight of a very heavy snow. We had our mule club due up for a ride and I went out and trimmed these dead limbs off the trail. For this the citation was for 6,000 dollars and six months in jail. To be determined in court. I don't trust anyone working and citing these types of cases. I drew this case out over twelve months by pleading not guilty and finally after the feds spent about 15,000 dollars getting ready to go to trial I pleaded guilty and paid a 150 fine. Your tax dollars at work. The only good thing to come of this is that federal officer left me alone after that.
I'm sorry for your experience but I disagree with your characterization. We need more enforcement across the board, not less. Less new laws, more enforcement of existing laws. My $0.03...
I agree. Does one person's bad experience with law enforcement justify criminality on the part of others? Not in my book.

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PaleoRob
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by PaleoRob » Jun 19 2009 6:02 pm

San Juan County Sheriff's office has launched an investigation into how the arrests and sting against the two dozen looters was handled. Interestingly enough, the sheriff's brother is one of those arrested. Hmm...

Salt Lake Tribune had a good article on comparing the artifacts that were stolen from federal land to some of the important LDS artifacts in SLC, and how no one thinks about their value on eBay, whereas "that was all" the pot hunters could see in the native artifacts.
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desert spirit
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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by desert spirit » Jun 20 2009 8:10 am

“I’ve been treated like a felon, and I hope I’m not a felon,” he says. “I made the wrong decision.”

Oh Duh.

I'm so glad to see the Feds cracking down on this. Now about those ATV's running roughshod on foot-only trails ...

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Re: Federal Sting on Pot Hunters

Post by Nighthiker » Jun 20 2009 9:37 am

Some of the folks caught after I reported were law enforcement, employed by the courts, relatives of law enforcment officials. The person selected to head the Arizona State Parks was caught vandalizing a historic site in Southern Arizona.
jk

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