|Thursday, Jan 17, 2008|
While investigating an unrelated case involving employees of Kirkland Construction, which had been engaged in a park repaving project under Federal Highways oversight, rangers learned through a confidential informant that one of the companyâs employees had been collecting and removing artifacts from locations near the construction site. The informant reported that Robert Gee, a truck driver for Kirkland, had been seen with a bread bag full of pot sherds, and that Gee had been overheard talking about how heâd taken the sherds and an artifact described as a âgrinding stoneâ from the park. Based on the description of the grinding stone, rangers had reason to believe that Gee had taken a mano and metate. A search warrant was issued by the federal magistrateâs office in Durango and executed by park rangers with assistance from a BLM ranger, a BLM special agent and Cortez Police Department officers. A total of 252 items were found and recovered, including pot sherds, flake lithics, rocks, paleontological specimens, stone tools and a mano and metate that together weighed about 50 pounds. Cortez officers also found and seized drug paraphernalia. Gee was interviewed and reported that heâd taken the items from the park over a month-long period. He said that he would walk through the woods near the site, collecting items, during his down time at the construction site. The day after the warrant was served, Gee met with rangers and a park archeologist and took them to the location where heâd removed the metate. The area was a known and previously surveyed archeological site. On January 8th, Gee pled guilty to ARPA charges and was sentenced by the federal magistrate. He was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $1,000 in restitution to the park, banned from entering all NPS areas for three years, and required to write a letter to the local newspaper explaining his crime and how it hurt the national parks and describing the sentence heâd received.