SALT LAKE CITY — Brent Bullock was not a lifelong collector, trader or seller of Native American artifacts.
A man with "total respect for Native Americans," according to his attorney, he had a picture frame full of five or six small Indian pieces and figurines that hung right inside his door, in the living room.
Bullock hadn't excavated the items and had never tried to sell them until he was approached by an acquaintance, Tammy Shumway, who said she knew someone interested in buying them, said his attorney, Earl Xaiz. The interested party turned out to be Ted Gardiner, who was acting as an undercover source for the government.
Monday, both Bullock, 61, and Shumway, 40, stood before a federal judge and pleaded guilty to one count each of trafficking archaeological artifacts and theft of government property.
"She introduced one party to another, and that was enough to be prosecuted," said Shumway's attorney, Fred Metos.
Bullock was having some "financial issues," Xaiz said, and decided to sell some of the items.
"They contacted him at his home and solicited that sale from him," Xaiz said. "He has no relationship to any of the other defendants in the case except for Ms. Shumway, who introduced him to the informant."
According to their attorneys, this 2007 exchange was an isolated incident. Shumway specifically admitted to aiding in the transaction between Bullock and Gardiner, while Bullock pleaded guilty to being in possession of artifacts that he later sold.
Bullock and Shumway were just two of more than two dozen people who were indicted following a 2 1/2 year investigation by the FBI and the Bureau of Land Management meant to crack down on the illegal excavation and sale of Native American artifacts.
The illegal transaction they were involved in was documented with audio and video recordings taken by Gardiner, who recorded hours of transactions. In total, he purchased approximately 256 archaeological artifacts totaling $335,685 as part of the government's investigation.
Gardiner, considered the government's key source in the case, shot and killed himself March 1, leading many defense attorneys to question the future of the government's case. Much of the evidence produced by Gardiner may be inadmissible in court as hearsay because it cannot be subjected to cross examination.
This issue was addressed by Xaiz in court, who clarified that he and Bullock took a step back to re-evaluate the case after Gardiner's death and had "extensive conversations" about how to proceed.
"We looked at where we stood, vis ?vis the evidence, and there was videotaped, audiotaped recordings," Xaiz said. "You could hear my client's voice, the other individual's voice. … It is my belief the government still has enough evidence."
As part of their plea agreements, the two were ordered to stay off of tribal and public lands overseen by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge system. Bullock also agreed to forfeit any and all archaeological artifacts that are either currently in his possession or that were seized by the BLM during a June search of his Moab home.6 comments on this story
Bullock and Shumway are the third and fourth defendants, respectively, to enter guilty pleas. Jeanne Redd and her daughter Jericca pleaded guilty to similar crimes and were both sentenced to probation by U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups in September.
Two other defendants, James Redd of Blanding and Steven Shrader of New Mexico, took their own lives after they were indicted.
If convicted of both counts, Bullock and Shumway will each face up to 12 years in prison. They will be sentenced July 7.