A multi-agency effort has led to the arrest and conviction of a Texas man who was trying to smuggle arrowheads, spear points, and other archaeological treasures out of Mexico through Big Bend National Park in the United States.
According to a release from Big Bend, a ranger on patrol back in April 2016 observed unspecified suspicious activity, which led National Park Service law enforcement officials to investigate Andrew Kowalik of Rockport, Texas, for the smuggling of the artifacts into the United States through Big Bend.
"Cases of stone tools, including more than 500 artifacts, were found to have been smuggled through the national park from Mexican protected lands," the release added. "A cooperative investigation involving the National Park Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service resulted in the successful federal prosecution of Kowalik for a violation of smuggling goods into the United States."
On February 13, Kowalik was sentenced to five years of supervised release/home confinement. Under the terms of his sentence, he is not allowed to leave his home after the hours of darkness, travel from his home county, or visit any national park. Kowalik was also fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit all artifacts previously identified as having originated in Mexico.
“The preservation of cultural resources is important to understanding history,” said Big Bend's acting superintendent, Vidal Davila. “National park rangers are committed to preserving these resources within our parks, as well as ensuring that these lands are not used for smuggling artifacts from other countries.”
Big Bend National Park will be working with partners in Mexico to repatriate the artifacts involved back to Mexico.