10,000 relics recovered after thefts

LAS VEGAS — More than 10,000 artifacts taken from historic sites in the West have been recovered in one of the largest archaeological theft cases ever investigated, authorities said.

The ring of relic hunters used probes, sifting screens, shovels and other tools to find items on public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and Nellis Air Force Base.

They stole arrowheads, hammer-stones and clay figurine fragments among other items, and their work damaged 13 archaeological sites, including Death Valley National Recreation Area, authorities said.

The last major defendant in the case, Nevada resident Bobbie Wilkie, has pleaded guilty to two counts of excavation and removal of archaeological resources and aiding and abetting. Sentencing was scheduled for Monday.

His wife, Deanne, has pleaded guilty to similar charges and will be sentenced Jan. 12.

A third defendant, Frank Embrey, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $86,196 in restitution.

The defendants displayed the items at their homes and sold some, according to the federal indictment. Authorities estimate the items had a commercial value of $21,600 and that restoration and repair of damaged sites would cost more than $100,000.

Historic sites on public lands are protected by federal laws, which make it illegal to destroy or excavate these areas.

Copyright ©2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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