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Federal Charges Filed Against Man for Illegal Procurement of Protected Artifacts


Indictment Details

Federal authorities have filed charges against a man identified as James Edward Patton, alleging that he unlawfully acquired and possessed numerous cultural artifacts protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

The indictment, filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, alleges that Patton, a resident of Farmington, New Mexico, knowingly and willfully excavated, removed, and possessed artifacts from multiple archaeological sites without authorization.

Significance of Protected Artifacts

The artifacts in question are considered valuable cultural resources that are protected by federal law. They represent the rich history and legacy of Native American tribes and other cultural groups in the region.

The ARPA, enacted in 1979, prohibits unauthorized excavation or removal of archaeological resources from public lands and Indian reservations. The NHPA, passed in 1966, seeks to preserve and protect significant historic and archaeological properties.

Modus Operandi

According to the indictment, Patton allegedly conducted excavation activities at multiple archaeological sites in northwestern New Mexico between 2016 and 2020. He is accused of using metal detectors and other equipment to locate and extract artifacts without proper permits or authorization.

Specific Artifacts

The indictment cites specific artifacts recovered from Patton's residence and storage units, including:

  • Pre-contact pottery fragments
  • Stone tools such as arrowheads and spear points
  • Jewelry and ornaments believed to have cultural significance
  • Human remains
  • Artifacts associated with Spanish colonial and Anglo-American settlers

Federal Involvement

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Park Service (NPS) conducted a joint investigation that led to the indictment.

The federal agencies worked together to identify and secure the protected artifacts, which had been illegally removed from public lands and archaeological sites.

Charges and Potential Penalties

Patton is facing a total of nine federal charges:

  • Five counts of violating the ARPA by excavating and removing archaeological resources on federal lands without a permit
  • Three counts of violating the NHPA by excavating archaeological resources on public lands without a permit
  • One count of violating the NHPA by possession of certain protected artifacts

If convicted, Patton could face substantial fines and prison time for each charge.

Importance of Cultural Resource Protection

The prosecution of this case underscores the importance of protecting and preserving cultural resources for future generations. The unauthorized excavation and removal of artifacts not only violates federal law but also diminishes the cultural heritage of the region.

The federal government, through agencies such as the BLM and NPS, is committed to safeguarding archaeological sites and ensuring that cultural resources are properly managed and protected.

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