On June 10, federal authorities charged 19 people with the theft of cultural and historical artifacts from American Indian lands and federal properties in the Four Corners area of southeastern Utah.
The defendants included a Moab man and and 18 people from Monticello or Blanding.
The charges stem from the alleged theft of more than 250 artifacts, according to the United States Interior Department.
The artifacts included decorated pottery, burial and ceremonial masks, a buffalo headdress and sandals known to be associated with ancient burials, according to information provided by the federal agency.
Details of the indictments were announced during the news conference in Salt Lake City.
The conference was attended by multiple officials, including U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Indian affairs representatives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Federal officials said the charges are the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation into the purported theft and sale of artifacts by an organized ring of looters based in southeastern Utah.
According to the Interior Department, 12 indictments covering 24 defendants were handed down by a Salt Lake City grand jury.
Arrest warrants were issued for 23 defendants and a summons was issued for the one remaining subject.
Arraignments were conducted throughout the day in a courtroom in Grand County before U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba.
Those charged under the indictments were: Loran St. Clair, 47, Monticello; Rulon Kody Sommerville, 47, Monticello; Kevin W. Shumway, 55, Blanding; Sharon Evette Shumway, 41, Blanding; David A. Lacy, 55, Blanding; Aubry Patterson, 55, Blanding; Dale J. Lyman, 73, Blanding; Jeanne Redd, 59, Blanding; James D. Redd, 60, Blanding; Raymond J. Lyman, 70, Blanding; Vern Crites, 74, Durango, Colo.; Marie Crites, 68, Durango, Colo.; Steven Schrader, 56, Durango, Colo.; Tammy Shumway, 39, Blanding; Joseph Smith, 31, Blanding; Meredith Smith, 34, Blanding; Harold Lyman, 78, Blanding; Nick Laws, 30, Blanding; Reese Laws, 27, Blanding; Tad Kreth, 30, Blanding; Brent Bullock, 61, Moab; Richard Bourret, 59, Durango, Colo.; David Waite, 61, Albuquerque, N.M.; Brandon Laws, 38, Blanding.
The defendants are charged with multiple counts of violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act as well as theft of government property, depredation of government property, and theft of Indian tribal property.
"Looters robbing tribal communities of their cultural patrimony is a major law enforcement issue for federal agencies enforcing historic preservation laws in Indian Country," said Interior Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry EchoHawk in a news release. "Today's action should give American Indians and Alaska Natives assurance that the Obama Administration is serious about preserving and protecting their cultural property."
According to documents that outlined the case, the FBI was working with a confidential source who had been a dealer of archaeological artifacts for about 10 years.
Between March 2007 and November 2008, that source purchased approximately 256 artifacts, valued at about $336,000, most of which came from Native American burial grounds and Indian caches, according to the documents.
The informant recorded the conversations and transactions as part of the federal undercover operation, according to the court documents.
One of the defendents in the case, James D. Redd, who had been a physician in Blanding for many years, was found dead near a pond on his property Friday. Initial reports say the death was an apparent suicide.