Local man accepts plea deal in artifacts theft case

A Grand Junction man pleaded guilty this week to reduced charges related to his 2009 indictment in a regional artifacts-theft investigation.

Robert Knowlton, 67, pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges that he sold a pipe, valued at less than $500, as well as another charge 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 originally was indicted on five charges, all felonies.

Knowlton faces a maximum of two years in prison and a $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 several-dozen people throughout the southwest, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.

Federal agents raided Knowlton’s home, and he was 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, Ted Gardiner of Salt Lake City.

Gardiner, 52, who was paid regular installments of $7,500 over the course of the two-year investigation, committed suicide in February during a confrontation with law enforcement in Salt Lake City.


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