Oregon man sentenced to 2 years in prison for skeleton sale
11/02/2006 (Associated Press via KGW.com)
A Redmond man was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday for trafficking in an American Indian skeleton.
Michael Orf, 30, also was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine to the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and spend three years on probation.
In addition, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ordered Orf to finish a high school equivalency program. She allowed him until the first of the year to report to prison.
Orf pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to violate the federal Archaeological Resource Protection Act after selling the skeleton to a government informant in 2004.
The 5 1/2-hour sentencing hearing Wednesday capped a six-year investigation into the looting of Indian artifacts and remains, called "Operation Bring 'Em Back."
Warm Springs tribal leaders testified before sentencing in federal court about how grave robbers undo the prayers, songs and ceremonies that accompany their ancestors in the next life, causing spiritual damage for mere money.
"It's a horrible attack on our way of life," said Louie Pitt Jr., governmental affairs director for the Warm Springs tribes.
Delvis Heath, chief of the Warm Springs tribes, sometimes speaking in his tribal language, said "unwritten laws" have guided native people for tens of thousands of years and should never be violated for personal gain.
"Outside people put a monetary value on Indian artifacts. These are treasures and history of our people," Heath said. "It is like a disease. The greed will start to take over."
The federal investigation began in 2000 and has yielded 13 convictions so far, with sentences ranging from probation to three years in prison, U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut said.
It is the largest investigation of its kind in U.S. history targeting illegal artifact excavation and trafficking in Indian remains, Immergut said. The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service led the effort, she said.
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