Texas Man Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Looting Native American Land

Published 5:14 pm Thursday, July 1, 2021

A San Marcos man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for illegally excavating a Native American homestead in Amarillo, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.

Jeffrey Alan Vance, 37, pleaded guilty in February to violating the Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA), a federal law that prohibits the unauthorized removal of artifacts from tribal land. He was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk.

According to plea papers, Mr. Vance admits he and a coconspirator, 33-year-old Dax Wheatley, excavated Native American artifacts from a site known as 41PT109 – a former homestead of the Antelope Creek Culture, Native Americans who lived in the Texas panhandle between approximately 1200-1500 A.D.

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In March 2019, a tipster alerted the Bureau of Land Management that an individual calling himself “Jerry Montopolis” had posted photographs of an illegal excavation on facebook.  When a commenter warned “Jerry” that he was “digging in federal land and rangers enforce there,” he responded, “I’m not scared of the feds.”

The Bureau of Land Management sent the photographs – posted in December 2017 – to Homeland Security Investigations, which was able to identify the men in the photos as Mr. Vance and Mr. Wheatly. The facebook account, they determined, actually belonged to Mr. Vance, who bragged that he planned to display skeletons he’d excavated in his “secret artifact lair.”

In a text messages reviewed by law enforcement, Mr. Vance called himself an “infamous  illegal excavator of Native American artifacts in Texas” and warned his contacts, “don’t be telling people we are digging on government property!”

Following a search of his home in November 2019, Mr. Vance admitted that he had human remains and burial beads inside his residence.

Mr. Wheatley also admitted to violating ARPA. He entered his guilty plea in February and is slated to be sentenced in July.