Bandelier thief sentenced

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In July 2009, law enforcement rangers at Bandelier National Monument, acting on an anonymous tip, initiated an investigation into the illegal collection of natural and cultural resources from National Park Service (NPS) lands. 

Based on that initial investigation a suspect, William Smith Sr., was identified and was alleged to have stolen property from multiple National Parks, including Bandelier National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and Richmond National Battlefield Park.  

Due to the multi-state reach of the investigation, as well as the need for more investigative resources, Bandelier National Monument Chief Ranger Tom Betts requested the assistance of the Investigative Services Branch (ISB) of the National Park Service, and a joint investigation was launched.

On Sept. 2, 2009, a federal search warrant was served at the suspect’s residence in Montpelier, VA. NPS Special Agent, Chris Smith and Bandelier patrol ranger Matt Wallat led the investigative team.

They were assisted by rangers from Richmond National Battlefield Park and Colonial National Historical Park as well as Bandelier Archaeologist, Rory Gauthier and other special agents from the NPS, ISB and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

Gauthier was able to identify those pieces taken from Bandelier and the location in the monument they came from. Natural and cultural resources including migratory bird specimens and Ancestral Pueblo artifacts were seized pursuant to the search warrant.

On Aug. 19, 2010, William Smith Sr. was federally charged with theft of government property and violations of the Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

On Oct. 27, 2010, as a result of a plea agreement, he pled guilty to one count of illegal taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds.

He was sentenced to a fine of $980, restitution of $1,800 to Bandelier National Monument and one year of probation.

As a special condition of the probation, he will participate with the NPS in making an ARPA training video.