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Colorado couple pleads guilty to artifact trafficking

SALT LAKE CITY — A Colorado antiquities dealer indicted as part of sweeping federal investigation into the looting of southwestern American Indian artifacts on Wednesday pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Salt Lake City’s federal court.

Carl L. Crites pleaded guilty to three felony counts of trafficking, theft and depredation of government property before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson.

In exchange for the plea, federal prosecutors dropped two other charges.

In court Wednesday, Crites acknowledged he had purchased a pair of basket-maker sandals valued at more than $1,000 from an undercover government operative and that he knew the shoes had been illegally taken from Utah public lands.

Crites, of Durango, Colo., also acknowledged helping the informant dig up human remains, pottery shards and a knife on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in southern Utah.

The charges carry a combined maximum punishment of 22 years in federal prison.

Crites’ wife, Mary V. Crites, also pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count of trafficking, which carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison.

A second charge was dropped.

Benson set an Aug. 11 date for sentencing.

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