Purchase Story

Six Mississippi Residents Convicted of Removing Native American Artifacts

Six Mississippi residents were recently sentenced in U.S. District Court for their roles in illegally searching for and removing Native American artifacts from government land. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, the six people are Matthew Glen Arnold, 33, of Booneville; Jackie Dale Arnold, 59, of Burnsville; Sandra Arnold, 62, of Burnsville; Tyler Wilemon, 22, of Booneville; Melinda Jean Arnold, 42, of Burnsville; and Robert Alan Aguirre, 29, of Corinth.

The investigation and subsequent charges arose out of the removal of Native American artifacts from United States Army Corps of Engineers property along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Tishomingo County, Mississippi.

Matthew Arnold was sentenced on September 29 following a guilty plea to six felony counts of excavating and removing archaeological resources located on designated historic public lands in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 20 months for each count of conviction, to be served concurrently, followed by one year of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $41,551.49 in restitution to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for damage to the subject property.

Jackie Arnold and Melinda Arnold were sentenced on October 13, Tyler Wilemon was sentenced on September 28, and Sandra Arnold was sentenced on September 7, following a guilty plea by each to one felony count of excavating and removing archaeological resources located on designated historic public lands in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Jackie Arnold was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 15 months and ordered to pay $24,357.77 in restitution. Sandra Arnold was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months and one day and ordered to pay $18,626.53 in restitution. Wilemon was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five months and ordered to pay $7164.05 in restitution. Each was sentenced to one year of supervised release following their terms of incarceration. Melinda Arnold was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay $28,656.20 in restitution.

Robert Aguirre, 29, was sentenced on October 19, following a guilty plea to two felony counts of excavating and removing archaeological resources located on designated historic public lands in violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Aguirre was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $2865.62 in restitution.

Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to similar charges and are currently awaiting sentencing.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago stated, “We are committed to working with Mississippi, its citizens, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation and other federal and state agencies to conserve and protect Mississippi’s archaeological resources, which are a nonrenewable cultural resource of irreplaceable value, as well as sacred to descendant communities and Native Americans.”


Originally published in the March 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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