NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Two men pleaded guilty, admitting to violating the Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) when they excavated some 1,500 artifacts from federal land in Texas.
Jeffrey Alan Vance, 37, of San Marcos, and Dax Wheatley, 32, of Amarillo, pleaded guilty this week.READ MORE: Texas Joins DC, 2 Other States Suing Google For Allegedly Invading Users' Privacy
“The Justice Department will not stand for the theft of precious cultural artifacts,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “We are working aggressively to safeguard our nation’s Native American heritage and root out those who violate the law.”
In March 2019, the Bureau of Land Management received a tip that an illegal excavation had occurred on a Native American cultural site at the Cross Bar Management Area, just north of Amarillo. The agency determined the illegal excavation took place at the site of a former homestead of the Antelope Creek Culture, Native Americans who lived in the Texas panhandle between approximately 1200-1500 A.D.
A agent received information that a person, later identified as Vance, had posted photographs of the illegal excavation on social media. While commenting on the photo, a Facebook user informed Vance that the area he was “digging in is federal land and Rangers enforce” there. Vance replied, “I’m not scared of the feds.”READ MORE: Harris County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ramon Gutierrez Killed In Hit-And-Run Crash
Wheatley also posted photographs of illegal excavations that he and Vance conducted at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site in Austin. Vance also posted information on social media about other dig sites in the Austin and San Marcos areas.
“I hope the sentences in this case will deter others from illegally collecting and trading in Native American cultural artifacts and other items protected by the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” said Eric A. Kriley, with the Bureau of Land Management.
According to court papers, Vance admitted that there were human remains inside his residence and Wheatly had a photograph of the excavation site in question taped to his refrigerator.
In all, approximately 1,500 artifacts were recovered by federal authorities including burial beads and petrified wood.MORE NEWS: Jail Escapee Arrested Trying To Flee Texas At Southern Border
Both men up to 2 years in federal prison and restitution for their crimes.