Stolen Artifact Investigation Leads to GJ

By: Chiara Lotierzo Email
By: Chiara Lotierzo Email

It is the nation's largest investigation of artifacts taken illegally from public and Native American lands.

Federal officials are working in four states to gather information, with one location right here in Orchard Mesa.

Law enforcement officials with the Bureau of Land Management served a search warrant at the Orchard Mesa home on Thursday.

A BLM official says the case is a “very big deal” and a high priority to the Department of the Interior.

Investigators did not confirm what they were looking for in the home, but say this search stems from the investigation into illegal taking, selling, and purchasing of artifacts, which according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and so far, totals 256 artifacts, more than $335,000 and twenty-three arrests spanning four states.

Erin Curtis with the BLM in Grand Junction says the artifact losses are not only emotional for related tribes, but also financially and historically significant, "there's a whole wealth of information that archaeologists get from where they found them and what relationships they were in location to other artifacts that we have now basically lost that info now and we don't get it back".

The BLM cautions anyone who finds artifacts to call their local office and have a trained professional take the next action.

The BLM is not sure yet of the whereabouts of all of the sites from which the artifacts were taken, and says the investigation is ongoing.

Indictments on twenty-four suspects in the case were announced on Wednesday in salt lake city, and more than a dozens search warrants were also issued.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the BLM are just some of the agencies involved in this two year undercover operation.

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