Sunday, October 7, 2012

Paleo-Prospector Thief Guilty of Conspiracy to Steal Government Property

A federal district court in Alaska has sentenced  Equinox Wilderness Expeditions (EWE) owner Karen Ann Jettmar to three years probation and a $30,000 fine for unlawfully taking a prehistoric fossil bone from federal land. Jettmar pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to commit theft of government property under 18 USC 371 and 641.  She was originally charged by a grand jury in December 2011 with felony counts of conspiracy and removing a paleontological resource from federal land.

In June 2009, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents began an undercover investigation into EWE and Jettmar.  The federal agency uncovered evidence of illegal "paleo-prospecting," according to the plea agreement filed with the court.  A woolly mammoth tusk recovered during a 2007 Kokolik River expedition and a fossil bone recovered from the Uukok River in 2009 were among the illegal items identified. Both artifacts were taken from the protected National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.  An October 2007 email from Jettmar to an EWE client remarked, "Good thing your tusk is safe in Pennsylvania. ... wouldn't want BLM coming after you!"

Judge Ralph Beistline accepted the plea agreement between Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Cooper and the defense, which included the following terms:

"The defendant shall modify and maintain her Equinox Wilderness Expeditions website, advertising, and other business communications, to ensure that they do not contain any writing, graphics, or other material encouraging or designed to encourage the expectation of collecting natural objects or objects of archeological, paleontological, cultural, historic, or scientific interest on the lands or waters visited; to add the following warning: 'It is illegal on all State and federal public lands and on all privately-owned lands to remove without a permit or authorization any natural objects or objects of archeological, paleontological, cultural, historic, or scientific interest'; and to remove and refrain from stating on the website, advertising, or other business communications, any representation that Equinox Wilderness Expeditions has the permits required for collecting such objects."

"The defendant shall not conduct or participate in or be present with any commercial activity on State or Federal public lands except those conservation units for which, before entering, she obtains and holds permits for activities booked for the 2012 summer season through the time of completion of those activities in the summer of 2012."

Alaskan state statutes also protect cultural resources in addition to federal law.   The law of "The Last Frontier" that preserves history and archaeology can be found here.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at Text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT: