Artifacts heist suspects arrested
By Nearly two dozen people from Utah and Colorado who formed a network that found, dug up and sold artifacts from some of the earliest of the Southwest’s human dwellers now face federal charges in connection with their activities.
Federal officials Wednesday announced the two-year undercover investigation and its culmination: indictments of 23 people for alleged violations of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The investigation was announced in Salt Lake City by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other officials from the Interior and Justice departments.
“Let this case serve notice to anyone who is considering breaking these laws and trampling our nation’s cultural heritage that the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Justice, and the federal government will track you down and bring you to justice,” Salazar said.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett L. Tolman described the defendants as “largely excavators, dealers and collectors.”
The illegally obtained 256 relics include decorated Anasazi pottery, an assortment of burial and ceremonial masks, a buffalo headdress, and ancient sandals known to be associated with burials. Federal officials said the artifacts were worth more than $335,000.
The thefts took place in 2007 and 2008, officials said.
Many of the defendants appeared Wednesday before a federal magistrate judge in Moab, but one was issued a summons to appear in federal court.
The defendants were ordered to maintain and store in current condition all artifacts in their possession and try to protect them.
The arrests underscore “how much work we need to do to make sure our cultural heritage is safeguarded,” said Kevin Mack, National Landscape Conservation System Campaign director at The Wilderness Society.
“Those who remove or damage artifacts on public or tribal lands take something from all of us,” Tolman said. “These treasures are the heritage of all Americans, and in many cases, the objects are sacred to Native Americans. The notion that you can take whatever you want from public lands is wrong. Individuals engaged in this kind of conduct will be investigated and prosecuted.”
More arrests could arise from the investigation, said Craig Leff, a spokesman for the Interior Department.
Charges include trafficking in stolen artifacts and theft of government or tribal property. The indictments did not specify which public or tribal lands from which authorities believe the items were taken.
Sixteen of the defendants are from Blanding, Utah: Kevin W. Shumway, 55; Sharon Evette Shumway, 41; David A. Lacy, 55; Aubry Patterson, 55; Dale J. Lyman, 73; Jeanne Redd, 59; James D. Redd, 60; Raymond J. Lyman, 70; Tammy Shumway, 39; Joseph Smith, 31; Meredith Smith, 34; Harold Lyman, 78; Reese Laws, 27; Nick Laws, 30; Brandon Laws, 38; and Tad Kreth, 30.
Monticello, Utah, residents arrested were Loran St. Clair, 47, and Rulon Kody Sommerville, 47.
Three Durango residents were arrested: Vern Crites, 74; Marie Crites, 68; and Steven Shrader, age unavailable.
Brent Bullock, 61, of Moab, Utah, and Richard Bourret, whose hometown and age were unavailable, also were arrested.
Federal officials did not provide information on the 24th defendant, who was issued a summons.