February 19, 2015 - FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment today against Norman Starks, 76, a resident of Lone Pine, California, charging him with unauthorized removal of archaeological resources, depredation of government property, and possession of stolen government property, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, the defendant damaged, altered, and removed Native American archaeological resources without authorization, from federal lands. These included Native American burial cairns and other cultural artifacts, such as beads and fragments of ceramic pots, which were more than 100 years old. The artifacts were located in the Lone Pine area of Inyo County on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management. In addition, the indictment charges the defendant with possessing stolen property that included prehistoric Native American incised stone tablets, which had been taken from government lands.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. Assistant United States Attorney Megan A. S. Richards is prosecuting the case.
If convicted of theft of stolen government property or depredation of government property, STARKS faces a maximum statutory penalty of ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. For each count of removal of archaeological resources, STARKS faces a maximum statutory penalty of two years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Archeological resources are protected under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). Federal land managers, such as Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, are responsible for the protection of natural and cultural resources located on public lands.