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Feds charge man with threatening informant in artifacts case



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Blanding man is charged with threatening to beat the undercover informant involved in the Indian artifacts case.

Federal prosecutors have charged Charles Benton Armstrong, 44, with retaliating against an informant.

According to court documents, Armstrong was angry over Dr. James Redd's suicide. Redd was one of 25 people charged in the case. Investigators say Armstrong blamed the confidential informant for Redd's death.

He admitted he planned to tie an informant to a tree and beat him with a baseball bat. He told police he didn't intend to kill the informant, but to "hurt him real bad" and "make him pay."

He said he was expecting to get caught, and his statements are now being used against him in federal court.

His case goes to a grand jury on July 23.

Federal agents have gone to great lengths to protect the highly-touted confidential source who wore a wire and provided information that led to charges against 25 people. They are accused of participating in an artifacts theft ring. They would dig up relics from private and public lands.

The FBI refused to say if their confidential source was cooperating willingly, but the informant caught many of the defendants on audio or video.

Two of the defendants have already pleaded guilty. On July 6, Jeanne Redd, 59, pleaded guilty to a seven-count indictment accusing her of involvement in an illegal network of artifact thieves. Her daughter, Jerrica, 37, also pleaded guilty to charges of illegally possessing government and tribal property.

Jeanne Redd's husband, Dr. James Redd, 60, committed suicide the day after a raid in the Four Corners area netted the bulk of the arrests. His death, and the suicide of Stephen L. Shrader, 56, sparked criticism of some of the tactics employed by federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah and the FBI have defended their decisions, saying the raid was necessary for officer safety and the preservation of evidence.

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Story compiled with contributions from Ben Winslow and Richard Piatt.

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