Colorado man pleads guilty in Indian artifacts trafficking case

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 23 2010 5:09 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A Colorado man nabbed in a federal sting operation last year pleaded guilty Tuesday to trying to dig up Native American antiquities in southern Utah.

Richard Raymond Bourret, 61, admitted in U.S. District Court to accompanying others, including a confidential government informant, to public land in San Juan County where they used a shovel to unearth human remains, pottery sherds and a knife without a federal permit in September 2008. The charges carries a sentence of up to two years in prison. Judge Dee Benson will sentence the Durango man on Feb. 1, 2011.

Bourret is among 25 people indicted last year as part of a federal crackdown on those who deal in Native American artifacts. The operation involved individuals in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. About half of them have reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors, while the other cases remain unresolved, with several scheduled for trial next year.

An undercover informant, Ted Gardiner, worked with the FBI and Bureau of Land Management in their 2  1/2 year investigation in the Four Corners area. He made audio and video recordings of illegal transactions and bought approximately 256 archaeological artifacts totaling $335,685. Gardiner committed suicide in March.

Two others, Carl Lavern "Vern" Crites and his wife Marie Virginia Crites, named in the same indictment as Bourret, were also scheduled to enter guilty pleas Tuesday, but the hearing was postponed. A fourth person listed in that indictment, Steven L. Shrader, committed suicide in June 2009.

Vern Crites, of Durango, Colo., faces five counts including trafficking in stolen artifacts, theft of government property and depredation of government property. His wife is charged with two counts of theft.

A new hearing date has not been set.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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