July 08, 2009

Artifact theft = "organized crime"

Rare guilty pleas in artifacts sting

By Howard BerkesSan Juan County, Utah, has what are believed to be the country's greatest concentrations of ancient American Indian ruins and artifacts. The county is bigger than Connecticut and includes skyscraping mountains, desert mesas and steep and narrow canyons that are remote, largely unpopulated and difficult to patrol.

"By using an undercover agent, they've been able to penetrate this ring of professional looters," Michel adds.

The plea agreements signed by Jeanne and Jerrica Redd, and search warrant affidavits describing the alleged digging, collecting and trafficking of others, shows that the artifacts trade in the region is not benign. Some locals have described it as a family-friendly subculture passed down from generation to generation for a century.

"This is not some sort of harmless Sunday picnic arrowhead hunting that's going on," writer David Roberts says. "It's a full scale black market business. It's really organized crime. This goes far beyond being a hobby."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Redds Plead Guilty to Looting and Blanding's Criminal Culture.

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