FEDS BRING ARTIFACTS INVESTIGATION TO GJ

Items recovered after 10-hour search of Orchard Mesa home by FBI, BLM agents

U.S. Rangers consult together outside 1602 Dolores St. on Orchard Mesa after a search warrant was served for the home in connection with a two-year undercover sting conducted by government agents of artifact thefts



Federal agents removed five taped-up cardboard boxes and several brown paper bags from a home on Orchard Mesa on Thursday evening, ending a 10-hour search of the property at 8 p.m.

A law enforcement source at the scene, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said several items relevant to the federal investigation of stolen artifacts from the Four Corners region were seized at 1602 Dolores St.

Authorities declined to speak in detail about what was taken from the home, including a man who answered the door.

“The truth shall set you free,” the man said, declining to identify himself Thursday evening.

He said he had done nothing wrong.

“No, sir,” he added. “I know exactly what’s going on here and I’ll tell you about it after I talk to my attorney.

“(The agents are)  just doing their job,” he said.

Armed agents with the Bureau of Land Management and FBI drove up to the home around 10 a.m. Thursday with a search warrant, before driving away at 8 p.m. Several neighbors said they hadn’t had time to meet the new occupant at 1602 Dolores St., which got a new exterior paint job just days ago.

“Already?” asked Angie Ashley, when told about federal agents prowling next door.

“The people over there have been moving in the past few weeks.”

According to Mesa County Assessor records, the home is owned by Allen R. Crim of Orchard Mesa. Crim on Thursday afternoon said he closed on a sale of the home last Friday to a man whom he declined to identify.

“We ate cookies and signed paperwork,” Crim said of his interactions with the man during closing.

Authorities said the Orchard Mesa search warrant was part of an ongoing investigation related to Wednesday’s indictments of 24 people accused in an alleged scheme to unearth and sell artifacts from federal lands across the Southwest, in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The accused include mostly excavators, dealers and collectors, authorities have said.

Indictments were unsealed Wednesday morning in Salt Lake City, while search warrants were executed that same day at 12 locations.

“This house (on Orchard Mesa) is in addition to the 12 searched on Wednesday,” said Erin Curtis, a spokeswoman with the BLM in Grand Junction.

Officials have said 256 specific artifacts worth more than $335,000 were illegally obtained, including decorated Anasazi pottery, various burial and ceremonial masks, a buffalo headdress, and sandals associated with American Indian burials, among other items.

“Additionally, improperly excavated archeological sites mean a significant amount of historical information is lost because the artifacts are not identified in the context of where they were located,” reads a Justice Department news release.


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