Man accused of threatening informant in artifacts theft case
Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY – A southern Utah man planned to tie an undercover informant to a tree and beat him with a baseball bat over his involvement in a large-scale investigation into the theft and illegal trafficking of American Indian artifacts, according to federal officials.
In a complaint filed Monday, federal prosecutors say 44-year-old Charles Denton Armstrong, of Blanding, told a witness he planned to “take care of” an artifacts dealer who spent two years working undercover for the FBI and the Bureau of Land Management on an investigation into the trafficking of ancient relics in the Four Corners area.
The investigation included hours of recorded phone calls and in-person conversations. It eventually led to the indictments of 25 people from Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
Armstrong, who is suspected of retaliating against an informant, was arrested Saturday. He remains in federal custody and made an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Salt Lake City.
His federal defender, Lynn Donaldson, declined to comment after the hearing.
Armstrong told a witness on July 2 that he was once a patient of James Redd, a Blanding doctor who committed suicide a day after the indictments were announced last month, court documents said. Redd was charged with a felony count of theft of tribal property.
Armstrong said he blamed the informant for Redd’s death and that he was going “to take care of him,” according to the federal complaint.
The witness – who is not named in the court documents – contacted a BLM officer July 7 and told him about the conversation.
The next day, the agent went to Armstrong’s home. Armstrong told the agent that he didn’t intend to kill the informant but to “hurt him real bad,” according to court documents.
He said he intended to wear camouflage so he couldn’t be identified on approach, court papers said. He also said it was a good idea for the informant to stay out of Blanding, the southern Utah town where 17 of those indicted are from.
A post-it note with the source’s name on it was found in Armstrong’s vehicle and Armstrong showed the BLM agent where in his house to find the baseball bat, documents said.
Prosecutors declined Monday to offer more details about the case.
Armstrong could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. A detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, and he is scheduled to be arraigned July 23.
Brett Tolman, U.S. attorney for Utah, has said the confidential source was crucial in the artifacts investigation. Over the course of two years, the source paid more than $335,000 for 256 stolen items, including bowls, stone pipes, sandals, arrowheads, jars, pendants and necklaces, according to court documents.