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Careful if you live in Florida

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  • Careful if you live in Florida

    I hope this is the right place for this article. Hubby found it on another forum and I thought I'd share it with you all.
      Jacky Fuller was sound asleep beside his wife of 33 years when pounding at the door jolted him awake. The 54-year-old father of two and faithful Jehovah's Witness stumbled out of bed in his underwear. It was not yet dawn, but the doorbell was ringing, and the pounding sounded like someone about to knock the door off the hinges. Heart hammering, he pulled open the door and stared into gun barrels.
      Whoever had come for him wore helmets and bulletproof vests and carried tactical rifles, and as they pulled him outside at his home in Fortson, Ga., they said he was under arrest.
      The agents were with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Division of Law Enforcement. That same morning, Feb. 27, other agents pounded on Terry Tinsley's door outside Tallahassee. He's 52 and hard of hearing, and his house had been broken into twice before, so he had been sleeping with a handgun within reach. He grabbed his weapon, ready to fire on the first intruder, when he heard someone shout: "Law enforcement!"
    At 25-year-old Nate Curtis' home, not far away in Havana, agents handcuffed his wife, he claimed, and seized his computers and cellphone. William Walters, 48, said agents surrounded his truck in Dade City as he headed to work. Shawn Novak wasn't home, but agents harassed his wife at work until she gave them permission to search their house, said Novak, 47. "They tortured my wife all day long," he said. "They threatened her, saying they were going to break the door down."
      In all, FWC agents raided six homes, arrested 14 people from Big Pine Key to south Georgia, and charged them with more than 400 felonies. The raids capped a two-year undercover investigation that cost the state more than $130,000, not including the cost of the tactical raids or subsequent prosecution. The sting, called Operation Timucua, netted people with clean criminal records, including a brick mason, a 24-year military veteran and a 74-year-old retired University of South Florida professor. It drove suspects into debt and wrecked their reputations. One man got divorced. One committed suicide.
      The mission: to stop the buying and selling of artifacts.
    On May 28, 2012, an artifact collector named Allen Hyde spent the morning watching television in his trailer in rural Hamilton County, about 25 miles northwest of Live Oak, when his buddy showed up at the door.
      Hyde, 49, welcomed him. Hyde was unemployed and spent his time taking care of his elderly parents and looking for artifacts to sell at shows and on eBay.
      Mike Sheppard stepped inside with a cold beer. He always brought beer.
      "This is a pretty cool show," Sheppard said.
      "I've been watching Storage Wars and Pawn Stars all morning," said Hyde.
      The two had met at an American Indian artifact show at Saint Leo University the year before. They quickly became pals. Sheppard would visit Hyde's trailer to drink Bud Light and watch football, and he even stayed the night sometimes, Hyde said. Hyde had introduced Sheppard to his fellow collectors.
      Most knew Sheppard by his nickname, Cowboy. They'd seen him poking around at trade shows, which are advertised on the Internet and held at Elks Lodges and places like the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City.
      Cowboy, who wore boots and drove a full-size Ford truck and spoke with a drawl, let on that he was new to collecting and was in the market for arrowheads that came out of Florida rivers. Some collectors were suspicious. It's a small, insular bunch. They thought it peculiar that Cowboy wanted to know specifically where and when an artifact had been found.
      But not Hyde. He considered Cowboy a friend.
      That rainy day in May, Sheppard and Hyde drank beer and talked arrowheads. Hyde told Sheppard it's hard for him to even leave his house without wanting to buy rocks.
      "God, if I had a mansion with tons of rooms to put s--- in, I'd be buying the hell out of stuff," he said. "I'd have one room just for gems and minerals on shelves, and lighting, you know — the lighting makes it — I mean just shining down on it. There's just so much crap out there that you've just never seen in your life, you know, from around the world, man, that it's just crazy, beautiful s---."
    Sheppard asked Hyde if he'd found any artifacts lately. Hyde produced a box full of fossils he had pulled out of the Suwannee River.
      Horse teeth. A boar tusk. Stingray plates. Bits of turtle shells. With a fossil permit, which Hyde says he had, removing those from river bottoms is legal. But taking an artifact, something man-made more than 50 years old, has been illegal since 2005, and that's what Sheppard was interested in.
      "What do you want for that?" he asked about an arrowhead.
      "I don't know," Hyde said.
      "More than that."
      "Dude . . . give me a break. That's a good piece, man. It's fluted on both sides, man."
      "Seventy? Seventy-five?"
      "Dude, it's got a flute there and a flute there."
      "Eighty? Eighty-five? I'm fixin' to run out of money, dude."
      Hyde had been collecting arrowheads for 40 years, since he was a boy. He knew how to assign value to an artifact.
      "A hundred bucks, I guess," said Hyde.
      Sheppard had a secret. His real name was Michael Pridgen, and his paychecks were from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He had a hidden audio recorder rolling. And he wasn't Allen Hyde's friend.
      The undercover agent compiled hours of covert audio and grainy video, much of it of the hobbyists talking about their collections and admiring each other's arrowheads. He took photos of their stone tools and mammoth teeth, and was quick to offer a beer. In video and audio filed in the cases, he's rarely not drinking.
      On Feb. 27, the FWC's take-down teams struck. Hyde was living in a small apartment in the North Florida town of Macclenny. The pounding at the door launched him out of bed.
      When he opened the door, he said, he saw a line of officers with weapons drawn.
      The wildlife commission officials held the news conference at the Florida Museum of History in Tallahassee the same day as the arrests.
      Maj. Curtis Brown, the head of Operation Timucua, stepped in front of the cameras.
      "This was a criminal conspiracy, a criminal network of dealers," said Brown, who wears his hair short and bears the disposition of a young politician. "This was not a family or a hiker out that finds an arrowhead. We didn't target those people. We were targeting the main dealers and looters that are driving this market."
      He estimated that agents seized more than $2 million in Indian artifacts during the raids, but that's a questionable number. Those busted say it's way too high, and that the agent was buying artifacts for as little as $15.
      At the crux of the investigation was the idea that those who sell artifacts create a market for "looters," those who dig for artifacts on state property, which is illegal.
      Said Robert Bendus, historic preservation officer for the Department of State: "This isn't just stealing artifacts, this is stealing the history of this state. Because when you remove an artifact out of the ground you're taking it out of context. When you take it out of context you lose all ability to learn the story of the artifact."
      Artifacts that the undercover agent had bought were displayed on tables. Many look like plain old rocks to the untrained eye. The FWC showed photographs of pock-marked forests and riverbeds. What they didn't say was that the photographs of "Negative Impacts of Illegal Excavation on State Lands" were not linked to any of the defendants, and that no one from the state had seen any of them digging on state land.
      Collectors like Hyde and Fuller draw a sharp distinction between picking up something off a river bottom that has already been dislodged from its historical context and digging a hole through a significant undisturbed site. In its news conference, the FWC drew no such distinction.
      Stopping looters may have been the point, but catching someone digging is extremely difficult. The agency hoped that rounding up these collectors would stunt the market.
      People have been collecting artifacts in Florida for more than 100 years. The state outlawed that in the '60s and '70s, but many kept collecting. Penalties were rare, and collectors were often the ones pointing archaeologists to important sites. Even the chief of the agency that became the FWC, Thomas M. Goodwin, dove for artifacts while it was illegal, his son Tommy told the Tampa Bay Times.
      In 1996, the state launched the Isolated Finds Program to bridge the gap. That gave collectors permission to take river artifacts that had been dislodged from their original location. An arrowhead between a tire and an old Budweiser can on the bottom of the Suwannee, for example, wouldn't reveal much about native culture because it had been bouncing downstream for a thousand years.
      "Isolated Finds was created as a way to focus on archaeological significance," said Jim Miller, who was state archaeologist at the time. "When artifacts are displaced from their context they lose some of their archaeological value."
      The majority of the Operation Timucua suspects participated in the Isolated Finds program. Alas, some collectors didn't, and the program became protective cover for illegal looting. When it was discontinued in 2005, it didn't stop the collectors.
      The February stings have revived the debate that has divided archaeologists and collectors for years: Who owns the past, and who should be able to go looking for it?
      "When I think of archaeology, I think it's something the whole world participates in on some level," said Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Florida. "I have mixed feelings about what some of the amateurs do, but there are a lot of things I can't see any harm in."
      "These artifacts are lost when they are in the rivers," said Bob Knight, former president of the Sunshine State Archaeological Society. "Then they go in and terrorize these people, busting into homes with no warning, treating them like drug dealers. This is terrible."
      In the nine years the program was in place, 150 people reported finding 10,720 artifacts in 51 rivers and lakes. The state, which has more than 500,000 artifacts, didn't want the pieces the divers found.
      "They don't have the resources to curate what they have already," said Robert Austin, former president of the Florida Archaeological Council. "Collecting is going to occur . . . and we should have a method where the archaeological community and the public should get some information out of that."
      Archaeologists would prefer artifacts be left alone. Duval County Court Judge Gary Flower, a collector himself, has called that approach, "Leave it where it's at for future generations to never find and pave over."
      More at link

  • #2
    Freakin' ladder climbing, hidden agenda slimball politicians and their jack booted thugs, trying to justify the expense of all that armor they just purchased. Now that 70 percent of Floridians are in favor of the weed,they're searchin' for a new bandwagons for spearheading easy busts: it also sounds as though the fookin' bastids would like us to clap for them as they "protect" us from ourselves once again -
    No Thanks!!!
    If the women don\'t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.


    • #3
      Couldn't agree with you more Olden, a sorry state of affairs.
      Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan


      • #4
        Posted by [Mainejman]:

        Theres an easy formula here....artifacts+MONEY=deception and in this case death.Why would we expect the world of artifacts to be any different once money gets involved.Then they will be judged by a system that if you have more money you get more justice.Theres a pattern here.


        • #5
          mainejman wrote:

          Theres an easy formula here....artifacts+MONEY=deception and in this case death.Why would we expect the world of artifacts to be any different once money gets involved.Then they will be judged by a system that if you have more money you get more justice.Theres a pattern here.
            It seems as though an honest politician can't make it in the 'good old boy' lobbyist system. A few that come to mind that tried are Jimmy Carter (a great humanitarian as well as arrowhead collector), and Ralph Nader; a tireless worker for the common man (think seat belts). He'd sleep in his office on the couch, and in his suit - ready to do battle on Capital Hill the next day. My lady was his main secretary, and when he'd call the house he always took the time to ask me "are you still smoking cigarettes?"
          Politicians are such phony's -and- hypocrites: they seem only concerned with polls and keeping 'spin doctors' at hand to keep track of the 'appearances' of their lies. Where are our TRUE LEADERS - the one's with REAL MORAL CHARACTER?? Yeah, I'm just a bit disillusioned..

          If the women don\'t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.


          • #6
            Reposting full article as original link is not working....
            Rhode Island


            • #7
              Newer OP ED
              Professor Shellman
              Tampa Bay