A group of thirteen individuals—11 from Florida and two from Georgia—were arrested February 27 on 400 felony counts for trading in illegal historical artifacts, many of them Native American, taken from state-owned lands in Florida.
“This looting didn’t just take artifacts from the ground,” Robert Bendus, Florida’s state historic preservation officer, said at a news conference in Tallahassee, reported the Associated Press. “It took history away from this generation and from future generations of Floridians.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers said there is nearly a $2 million black market for illegal historical artifacts.
Dozens of arrowheads and pottery shards were shown at the Florida news conference, but many of the stolen artifacts won’t ever be recovered.
Maj. Curtis Brown of the Fish and Wildlife Commission said the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests could be made.
The arrests were the result of a two-year investigation called Operation Timacua, which began after complaints of looting from around the state over the last five years were made.
Undercover agents would pose as buyers and find the items listed on websites such as Craigslist or at trade shows, reported the AP.
One of those arrested, Jacky Fuller, 54, of Fortson, Georgia, faces 216 counts; he is accused of violating historical resources, dealing in stolen property and dealing stolen property over the Internet. Fuller was booked March 7 into Marion County Jail in Florida with bond set at $7,500.
According to Ocala.com, an undercover agent purchased nine artifacts Fuller obtained from diving in St. Johns River for $200. An archaeologist determined the items to be “lithic core and grinding tools.”