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Arrest for pilfering artifacts

Allen C. HydeA Macclenny man was among 13 suspects arrested across the state and in Georgia last week for stealing valuable artifacts from state lands and attempting to sell them online and at trade shows during the last two years.

Undercover officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) infiltrated a group of men accused of digging or dredging on state property to find the artifacts, some priced at $100,000. Most of the suspects were arrested at their homes the morning of February 27, including Allen Charles Hyde at 53 W. Macclenny Ave.

Mr. Hyde, 49, faces 50 felony counts of dealing in stolen property, one misdemeanor count of theft and 51 felony counts of violating historical resources, according to FWC.

The state agency did not release details of each suspect’s specific offenses like what artifacts they took from public lands or the exact locations of the alleged thefts.

 

“The artifacts seized during all of the arrests include arrowheads, pots and pottery pieces and gold coins,” said Katie Purcell, FWC spokesperson. “They are from paleo-native Americans.”

She said investigations into additional suspects are ongoing and the specific sites are part of that investigation.

“I can say that they are mainly in central and northern Florida and were on state lands — forests and wildlife management areas,” said Ms. Purcell.

She said during FWC’s covert operation, its officers were invited on illegal digs and to buy and sell the artifacts.

Once booked into county jail, Mr. Hyde was served with an arrest warrant from Hamilton County on eight counts of unlawful sale of archaeological resources, seven counts of dealing in stolen property and one count of dealing in stolen property through the Internet.  His bond on those charges was set at $80,000.

“The suspects were part of a criminal conspiracy,” said Maj. Curtis Brown, head of the FWC’s Investigations section. “Their crimes pose serious environmental, economic and cultural consequences.”

Florida law protects historic properties, including artifacts on state lands. When someone takes them, they are essentially stealing from the people of Florida, both those here today and future generations.

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