Federal authorities file charges against 24 for looting cultural artifacts
by Lisa J. Church
staff writer
Jun 11, 2009 | 3725 views | 1 1 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Federal authorities on Wednesday charged 24 people, including a Moab man and 18 others from Monticello or Blanding, with the theft of cultural and historical artifacts from American Indian lands and federal properties in the Four Corners area of southeastern Utah.

The charges stem from the theft of more than 250 artifacts, according to the Interior Department. The stolen artifacts include decorated pottery, burial and ceremonial masks, a buffalo headdress, and ancient sandals known to be associated with Native American burials, according to information provided by the Interior Department.

Details of the indictments were announced during the news conference in Salt Lake City, which was attended by multiple federal officials, including Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and representatives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney. Federal officials said the charges are the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation into the theft and sale of artifacts by an organized ring of looters based in southeastern Utah.

According to the Interior Department, 12 indictments covering 24 defendants were handed down by a Salt Lake City grand jury. Arrest warrants were issued for 23 people, and a summons was issued for the one remaining. Arraignments were held throughout the day in a courtroom in Grand County before U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba.

Those charged under the indictments were: Loran St. Clair, 47, Monticello; Rulon Kody Sommerville, 47, Monticello; Kevin W. Shumway, 55, Blanding; Sharon Evette Shumway, 41, Blanding; David A. Lacy, 55, Blanding; Aubry Patterson, 55, Blanding; Dale J. Lyman, 73, Blanding; Jeanne Redd, 59, Blanding; James D. Redd, 60, Blanding; Raymond J. Lyman, 70, Blanding; Vern Crites, 74, Durango, Colo.; Marie Crites, 68, Durango, Colo.; Steven Schrader, 56, Durango, Colo.; Tammy Shumway, 39, Blanding; Joseph Smith, 31, Blanding; Meredith Smith, 34, Blanding; Harold Lyman, 78, Blanding; Nick Laws, 30, Blanding; Reese Laws, 27, Blanding; Tad Kreth, 30, Blanding; Brent Bullock, 61, Moab; Richard Bourret, 59, Durango, Colo.; David Waite, 61, Albuquerque, N.M.; Brandon Laws, 38, Blanding.

The defendants are charged with multiple counts of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act as well as theft of government property, depredation of government property, and theft of Indian tribal property.

“Looters robbing tribal communities of their cultural patrimony is a major law enforcement issue for federal agencies enforcing historic preservation laws in Indian Country,” said Interior Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk in a news release. “Today’s action should give American Indians and Alaska Natives assurance that the Obama Administration is serious about preserving and protecting their cultural property.”

According to documents that outlined the case, the FBI was working with a confidential source who had been a dealer of archaeological artifacts for about 10 years.

Between March 2007 and November 2008, that source purchased approximately 256 artifacts, valued at about $336,000, most of which came from Native American burial grounds and Indian caches, according to the documents.

The informant recorded the conversations and transactions as part of the federal undercover operation, according to the court documents.

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