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Man accused of threatening to beat informant in artifacts looting case

Federal officials say a Blanding, Utah, man wanted to harm an antiquities dealer who aided in a probe that led to the arrest of two dozen -- including the man's doctor, who later killed himself.

July 14, 2009|Nicholas Riccardi

DENVER — Federal prosecutors have charged a southern Utah man with threatening to beat a confidential informant who was pivotal in a widespread investigation into the looting of Native American artifacts, authorities said Monday.

Charles Denton Armstrong, 44, was arrested Saturday and charged with one count of retaliation against an informant. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in federal prison. His public defender and relatives declined to comment after his court appearance in Salt Lake City on Monday.

Armstrong was a patient of Dr. James Redd, one of two dozen defendants in the antiquities case. Redd killed himself one day after his arrest last month. His wife, Jeanne, and daughter Jerrica pleaded guilty last week to charges of trafficking in artifacts.

The case was built upon evidence provided by an antiquities dealer who for more than two years worked with federal officials to secretly record interactions with two dozen people suspected of digging up and trading Native American artifacts from the ruin-rich deserts of the Four Corners region.

The dealer has not been publicly named, but in Blanding, Utah -- home to the Redds and most of the defendants -- several people say they know his identity.

Blanding officials and many residents have been angered by the way the early-morning arrests were carried out, and they blame the probe for James Redd's suicide. Utah's two Republican senators have complained to the Obama administration.

According to court papers, another informant warned a Bureau of Land Management agent last week that Armstrong had said that he knew the antiquities dealer's identity and that he was going to "take care of him."

The BLM agent interviewed Armstrong the next day. Armstrong admitted he had made the statement and said he wanted to tie the informant to a tree and beat him with a baseball bat, according to a federal complaint.

"Armstrong indicated his intent was not to kill the source, but to 'hurt him real bad,' " the complaint said. The informant's name was found on a piece of paper in Armstrong's car.

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nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com

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