New arrests made in ongoing investigation of artifact trafficking

Federal agents continue to investigate illegal trafficking in ancient artifacts. A series of raids on June 10 were the first public knowledge of an investigation that has been on-going for more than two years.

Charles Denton Armstrong, age 44 of Blanding, has been charged with making a threat against a key informant in the artifacts trafficking case. Armstrong was arrested on July 11 and was charged in U.S. District Court on July 13.

The charge states that Armstrong threatened to injure the informant, known simply as “The Source” in court documents. The threats were apparently made in retaliation for the raids that resulted in federal charges against 25 people and may have contributed to the subsequent suicide of San Juan County physician James Redd.

The charges state that Armstrong made verbal threats against the informant on July 2. Several days later, the charges state that he repeated the threats to a federal agent who was investigating the initial threat.

If convicted of retaliating against an informant, Armstrong faces up to 20 years in prison.

Redds plead guilty

On July 6, Jeanne Redd, age 59, and Jericca Redd, age 39, pleaded guilty in federal court to a number of charges related to the artifacts case. The widow and daughter of Dr. James Redd are the first of the indicted area residents to resolve the charges.

Jeanne Redd pleaded guilty to seven felony counts, including three counts of theft on tribal property, two counts of theft of government property and two counts of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).

Redd admitted taking artifacts from BLM land in Owl Creek and Butler Wash, from forest service property, and from tribal lands on Black Mesa in northern Arizona.

Jericca Redd was not among the 24 people who were the target of the initial federal raids, arrests and charges on June 10. Apparently, she faced charges as the result of evidence collected during the raid.

Jericca Redd pleaded guilt to three felonies of digging artifacts on the Navajo reservation.

Each felony carries potential fines of $10,000 and up to ten years in prison. As part of the plea arrangement, a federal attorney mentioned that they would not seek the maximum penalty. Both women will be sentenced on September 16.

As part of the plea agreement, the Redds agreed to turn over their entire collection of artifacts. On July 7, two rental vans began the process of emptying the Redd home of the artifacts. A team of 20 federal agents spent the day preparing the artifacts for shipment to the BLM offices in Salt Lake City.

BLM officials said that a lengthy process will be required in order to determine where the artifacts will end up. The Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding may be the recipient of many of the artifacts.

Rhetoric stays hot

Area officials continue to express concern about the manner in which the June 10 raids were carried out. In testimony presented to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams said, “On the morning of June 10, over 240 federal law enforcement agents descended on San Juan County... to make arrests in a two-year undercover operation.”

He added, “During that same two year period, violent crime… proliferated on the Navajo Nation because the Department of Justice… is doing nothing to stop it.”

From our perspective, the only assurance the federal agencies actions have provided thus far is that they care more about protecting artifacts of the dead than the safety of the living.”

On July 8, the Navajo Utah Commission approved a resolution supporting the antiquities investigation and calling for the vigouous enforcement of antiquities laws, including treble damages to those violating the Navajo Nation Cultural Resources Protection Act.

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