An investigation by the Tennessee Valley Authority has resulted in the conviction of five people in federal court for the theft of cultural artifacts from TVA-managed property.
The cases involved three separate incidents in which TVA Police investigators witnessed the suspects removing artifacts.
In one case, investigators saw a man bringing up Native American artifacts while diving at Pickwick Reservoir in June. Joey Willis, of Tuscumbia, Al., was found guilty in federal court in Huntsville of a misdemeanor violation of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act or ARPA. He was ordered to pay more than $250 in fines and penalties.
In another case heard in Huntsville, a Tennessee man was found by TVA investigators digging for Native American artifacts on the shore of Guntersville Reservoir in February. Don Hawkins, of Monteagle, Tn., was convicted of a misdemeanor ARPA violation and was fined $500, plus court costs. Hawkins was fined another $250 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
The third case involved three people from Stevenson, Al., who were found digging along the shoreline at Guntersville by investigators gathering evidence from the previous case just a few hours earlier. Deborah Arnold, Darius Hutchens and James Owens, all from Stevenson, were each ordered to pay more than $250 in fines and penalties for ARPA violations.
“These cases demonstrate that our investigators are out in the field aggressively working to protect our region’s cultural history,” said David Jolley, TVA vice president of Security and Emergency Management. “We will prosecute anyone who takes historic artifacts from TVA property.”
Mr. Jolley added that it is illegal to take any artifacts, including arrowheads, from TVA-managed property. He said if any of the suspects violate ARPA a second time, the penalties could be up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity for business customers and distribution utilities that serve nine million people in parts of seven southeastern states at prices below the national average. TVA, which receives no taxpayer money and makes no profits, also provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists utilities and state and local governments with economic development.