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An artifacts collector and dealer busted in a federal sting operation against traffickers of illegal Four Corners antiquities pleaded guilty Wednesday in Salt Lake City's federal court.

Carl "Vern" Crites, of Durango, Colo., admitted to three felonies associated with buying a pair of basketmaker sandals worth more than $1,000 from an undercover source in August 2008 and excavating on federal lands in San Juan County in September 2008, disturbing human remains and unearthing a knife worth more than $500. The two counts of theft and damage of government property each carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison, and one of trafficking in stolen goods carries a maximum two years.

A plea deal could get Crites, 76, probation when Judge Dee Benson sentences him Aug. 11. Prosecutors have recommended the low end of the sentencing guidelines, though it's uncertain what that will mean before a presentence report is complete.

His wife, Marie Crites, pleaded guilty to one count involving purchase of ancient sandals.

Eleven defendants in the artifact sweep, mostly from Blanding, have pleaded guilty in the case and received probation plus restrictions on use of public lands. If Benson accepts the government's recommendations, U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said, "the terms are pretty standard with what we've done with other defendants."

A co-defendant who helped Vern Crites during the excavation, Richard Bourret, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 36 months of probation.

The Criteses did not comment after their plea hearing. Vern Crites recently suffered a heart attack.

Government agents removed five truckloads of artifacts from the Criteses' home, and the plea agreement would make that forfeiture official. Walter Bugden, Vern Crites' attorney, said that represents essentially their collection. —

Who has been sentenced so far

All sentenced have received probation.

Jeanne Redd • Blanding

Jerrica Redd • Blanding

Dale Lyman • Blanding

Brent Bullock • Moab

Tammy Shumway • Moab

Nicholas Laws • Blanding

Robert Knowlton • Grand Junction, Colo.

Ray Lyman • Blanding

Aubry Patterson • Blanding

Brandon Laws • Blanding

Richard Bourret • Durango, Colo.

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