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Kentucky man sentenced for raiding Native American graves

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  Louisville, Ky. – U.S. District Court judge sentenced Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, Kentucky, to 15 months in prison for three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) on June 6, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assisted Park Service agents throughout.
The undercover investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in South Central Kentucky and also burials from as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Womack dealt in artifacts from the so-called “G.E. Mound” case prosecuted in the Southern District of Indiana in 1992. 
Artifacts recovered from that case were supposed to have been returned and re-buried at a site in Posey County, Indiana; however, Womack purchased artifacts from the previous prosecution in 2015 in Boonville, Indiana, for approximately $2,500, and transported them to Kentucky, where a portion of them were sold to the undercover federal agent. Womack also pled guilty to two additional counts charging him with trafficking in archaeological resources (Native American artifacts) from the Western United States. All artifacts in the case have been recovered and will be repatriated according to law.
In sentencing, the judge told Womack that he was disturbed that the defendant had chosen to dig the graves of the ancestors of Native Americans for profit and had done so while being fully aware of the laws he had chosen to violate.

A letter from Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, of Miami, Oklahoma, was made a part of the record and read at the sentencing hearing. The letter states, in part: “The remains that are within the soils of our original homelands contains the hallowed remains of human beings, our ancestors. We would urge the court to send a message to all those what would desecrate a grave, that ARPA violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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Indictments for imitation jewelry

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photo courtesy ICE

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A federal grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday charging four individuals with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by conspiring to import and fraudulently sell Filipino-made jewelry as Native American-made.

This is the second indictment filed as the result of a continuing federal investigation that began in January 2015. The investigation targeted an international scheme to violate the IACA, and has included the execution of eight search and seizure warrants and investigative activity in New Mexico, California, Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada and the Philippines.

The three-count indictment charges the following four defendants with conspiring to violate the IACA and the federal fraudulent importation, money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud laws:

Imad Aysheh, 41, formerly of Gallup, New Mexico, who is identified as the owner and operator of Imad’s Jewelry, a jewelry manufacturing business in the Philippines;

Iyad Aysheh, 45, of Lodi, California, who is identified as the chief executive officer and agent for IJ Wholesale, Inc., a California corporation that imports jewelry into the United States;

Nedal Aysheh, 37, formerly of Gallup, New Mexico, and

Raed Aysheh, 39, of American Canyon, California, who is identified as the owner and operator of Golden Bear & Legacy, LLC, a retail store in Calistoga, California, that specializes in Native American-style jewelry.

A fifth defendant was indicted in 2015.

According to the indictment, from March 2014 through October 2015, the four defendants conspired to violate the IACA by displaying and offering for sale jewelry manufactured in the Philippines in a manner that suggested that it was Indian-produced and the product of American Indian tribes. The indictment also alleges that these defendants conspired to defraud the United States and its people of money by using the U.S. mail and wire communications to promote the importation and sale of the Filipino-made jewelry as Indian-made, and to launder the proceeds of those unlawful sales.

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From the cradle boarding to the grave robbing

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 I’m not really sure which is worse, digging up the bones or buying the bones. An Ohio man last week pleaded guilty to purchasing First Nation remains that had been unearthed from a rock shelter, shallow caves dug into the sides of cliffs. A witness described the excavation as large enough to hold a Volkswagen.

Also of interest in the case was the use of cradle boarding marks on the remains to help identify the origin, possibly referring to artificial deformations of the skull caused by use of this child carrier.

Here’s the FBI release:

Man pleads to purchasing Native American remains
Aug. 5, 2015

COLUMBUS, OH—Mark M. Beatty, 56, of Wellston, Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to violating the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by purchasing human remains of Native Americans. The case is the first criminal enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in the Southern District of Ohio.

According to court documents, individuals were observed digging in a rock shelter in Salt Creek Valley in Jackson County, Ohio. When they were approached, they ran off into the woods and left behind shovels, dirt sifters, buckets and trash. Investigators confirmed that at least two individuals were digging on the property and had dug up human remains. Beatty admitted to purchasing those remains.

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