Thursday 28 February 2013

Artefact Hunters and Dealers Arrested in Florida

Like all removal of artefacts from archaeological contexts without proper method, observation and recording:
"This looting didn't just take artifacts from the ground," said Robert Bendus, Florida's state historic preservation officer. "It took history away from this generation and from future generations of Floridians."
According to the Miami Herald, "eleven people from Florida and two from Georgia have been charged in what state investigators called a criminal conspiracy to sell artifacts stolen from state-owned lands in Florida". The age of the arrested men ranges from 25 to 74, search warrants were served on four homes in Florida. In them, artefacts and "other illegal items" were found and seized (two of those arrested were also charged with drug possession). A news conference in Tallahassee included an exhibit of dozens of arrowheads and pot sherds. The arrests were linked by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers to a black market in illegal historical artefacts worth nearly $2 million.
The FWC's Maj. Curtis Brown said those arrested were the "main dealers and looters." "This network is a very tight-knit group of folks," Brown said. "They had collectors they dealt with and they'd sell around the state and around the country." Brown confirmed that the investigation is ongoing. When asked if some of the collectors who bought illegal artifacts would also be arrested, he said, "There may be additional violations found". 
The arrests were the result of a two-year-long investigation called Operation Timacua (named after an Indian tribe that once lived in parts of Florida and Georgia). This began as officials began to note an increase in looting in the last five years of ancient sites around Florida. It was found that the looted artefacts were often openly listed on websites such as Craigslist and were also turning up at trade shows.  A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission operative went undercover and posed as a buyer. Asking prices for some of the artifacts were as high as $100,000.

It is reported that the arrested men have been charged with multiple counts of violation of historical resources, dealing in stolen property and illegal removal of artefacts by excavation. Some of the men have reportedly been accused of conducting clandestine digs at night on historical sites -mostly in northern Florida.

Damage alleged to have been caused by these looters
(Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)
 James L. Rosica, '13 arrested in alleged stolen artifacts scheme' Miami Herald 27th Feb 2013. 

Jennifer Portman, "13 arrested for state artifact theft:Wide-scale looting is 'irrevocably destroying the history of the state'...", Feb 28, 2013  - notable for the redneck Comments
Men named:  Staff Reporter, 'Four Locals Arrested Selling Priceless Florida Artifacts', Thu, Feb 28, 2013

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