Tennessee Valley Authority nabs 5 in American Indian artifacts cases

photo Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters and TVA logo

An investigation by the Tennessee Valley Authority has resulted in the conviction of five people in a Huntsville, Ala., federal court for the theft of cultural artifacts from TVA-managed property.

The cases involved three incidents in which TVA police investigators saw the suspects removing American Indian artifacts, which is illegal.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said one case involved three people from Stevenson, Ala., in Jackson County. The three were found digging along the shoreline at Guntersville by TVA investigators, he said.

Deborah Arnold, Darius Hutchens and James Owens were ordered to pay more than $250 each in fines and penalties for violations of the Archaeological Resource Protection Act, known as ARPA.

Another case on the Guntersville Reservoir involved a Monteagle, Tenn., man whom TVA investigators found digging on the lakeshore in February. Don Hawkins was convicted of a misdemeanor ARPA violation and was fined $500, plus court costs, Brooks said. Hawkins was fined another $250 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, he said.

Investigators' third case was made in Pickwick Reservoir in June when they saw a man bringing up artifacts while diving, Brooks said.

In that case, Joey Willis, of Tuscumbia, Ala., was found guilty in federal court of a misdemeanor violation of the ARPA. He also was ordered to pay more than $250 in fines and penalties.

David Jolley, TVA vice president of security and emergency management at TVA, said in a statement that, 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.

"These cases demonstrate that our investigators are out in the field aggressively working to protect our region's cultural history," Jolley said.