Friday, August 14, 2009
Let The Buyers Beware.
According to the Durango Herald, "Blanding Artifact Raids Likely to Expand Scope to Target Buyers of Looted Antiqities."
As most of you know the FBI sting ring in Utah reported to have uncovered the largest illegal Native American artifact trafficking operation yet. These people were said to have been going on government protected and tribal land and digging up artifacts to sell on the black market and making hundreds of thousands of dollars in dirty money.
The next phase of this sting however seems to be steered towards targeting the BUYERS of illegal artifacts.
25 people have already been charged to date as a result of this FBI sting. Not surprisingly, the FBI used a well known artifact dealer to go underground and tape his customers describing how they acquired their artifacts. (Some claim to have went under the cover of darkness and other dug holes in their own back yard to allegedly claim the artifacts came from there instead of protected sacred lands.) The Durango Times states the dealer was paid $224,000 for the undercover work over 2½ years, according to search-warrant affidavits describing his work.
They go on to report that "The informant gave federal officials a rare insider's view of the illegal artifacts trade, recording a parade of suspects, as they described their methods in astonishing frankness"..and.."Authorities could not make a case this large without someone on the inside, U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said."
Although this "informant" is obviously a creep in my opinion, I think it is a smart move by the FBI to have used him and other dealers like him that could very well be in our region to put an end to illegal artifact looting and trafficking.
But the next step is going far beyond the dealers who can make a huge bank roll just by selling out on their sellers. The Durango Times reports that the Feds are also actively pursuing the leads from these dealers to the BUYERS of these illegal artifacts.
It will be interesting how far their net reaches in the end. Stay tuned!