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Federal Law Enforcement Task Force Receives Department of Interior Award for Nevada Artifact Theft Investigation

February 7, 2005

Reno, Nev. - A federal law enforcement task force, which includes an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Nevada, has received the Department of the Interior Conservation Service Award from the U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service, announced United States Attorney Daniel G. Bogden.

Assistant United States Attorney Margaret Stanish, a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Las Vegas, and six other members of the task force, received the award last Wednesday, February 2, 2005, in Washington D.C. from Interior Secretary Gale Norton. It is one of the highest awards that can be granted to private citizens, according to the National Park Service.

The award recognized the task force for uncovering and prosecuting a ring of archaeological looters who stole thousands of Native American artifacts from sites in Nevada and California between late 1997 and December 2001. Most of the sites were located approximately 100 miles north of Las Vegas on public lands within Death Valley National Park, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, the United States Air Force Bombing Range, and other lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Law enforcement agents and archaeologists examined over 50 archaeological sites and spent 10,000 hours investigating the case. Over 11,100 artifacts were recovered, and five defendants were convicted in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. The leader of the group, Bobbie Wilkie, of Oklahoma City, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $102,364 in restitution, for his guilty pleas to the felony charges of Excavation of Archaeological Resources and Aiding and Abetting. Another defendant, Frank Embrey, of Henderson, Nevada, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $86,000 in restitution for his guilty pleas to the same charges. The sentence of imprisonment ordered against Wilkie was the greatest period of imprisonment ever ordered by a court for a first-time offender in a prosecution involving the theft and destruction of archaeological resources and artifacts.

All of the defendants were charged under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). The defendants admitted they knew that the Native American artifacts and other archaeological resources were at least 100 years old and of archaeological interest, and that they did not have a permit to excavate and remove the resources from the sites.

Other task force agency members receiving the award were Special Agents and archaeologists with the National Park Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

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