Grand Junction man pleads guilty in artifacts probe

An Orchard Mesa man has pleaded guilty to charges related his 2009 arrest in a regional artifacts theft investigation.

Robert Knowlton, 67, pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges that he sold a pipe, valued less than $500, as well as another count that he mailed the item from Colorado to an FBI informant in Utah in the summer of 2008. Federal prosecutors filed the two new charges under the terms of a plea agreement.

Knowlton was originally indicted on five charges, all felonies.

Knowlton faces a maximum two years in prison and $20,000 fine during his sentencing hearing Nov. 19 before U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer. Knowlton is the last remaining Colorado defendant to be sentenced in an investigation that snared dozens.

Federal agents raided Knowlton’s home and he was later indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 25, 2009, largely on the strength of hours of undercover recordings made by a paid informant with the FBI, 52-year-old Ted Gardiner of Salt Lake City. Gardiner, who was paid regular installments of $7,500 over the course of two years during the investigation, committed suicide in February during a confrontation with law enforcement in Salt Lake City.


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