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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A key defendant in the investigation into the trafficking of Southwest artifacts is expected to take a plea deal.
Durango, Colo., antiquities dealer Vern Crites surrendered five truckloads of American Indian relics in August.
A defense lawyer revealed in federal court in Salt Lake City Thursday that he is negotiating a plea deal for the 74-year-old Crites, who bragged in secret recordings about having sold pottery sets for $500,000.
Lawyers expect another handful of defendants to follow suit and take plea deals.
Magistrate Samuel Alba called together the lawyers and prosecutors Thursday to sort the status of nearly two dozen cases.
The case broke last summer with the arrests of 26 people in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)