After raids, artifact dealers slowly regain trust

August 19, 2011 - 4:20 AM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two years ago, federal agents burst into nearly two dozen homes scattered throughout the archeologically rich Southwest, looking to take down people they believed were robbing Native American grave sites and illicitly selling or trading pieces of the nation's heritage.

Prosecutors are nearly done working their way through the list of defendants charged following those raids.

But for legitimate dealers and collectors of Indian artifacts, the sting in the rugged Four Corners region — where the boundaries of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado meet — is as fresh today as when the raids happened that summer day in 2009.

Since then, they've been struggling to rebuild their reputations and to dispel the "fantasy" that they are part of a black market dealing in rare, pricey bits of American history.