Stolen from US history: its artifacts
Looters are taking mementos and other valuable relics at the rate of $500 million a year.
In Italy, they are called tombaroli - tomb raiders - and punished with decade-long jail sentences and million-dollar fines.
In America, they plunder virtually unnoticed, stripping parks and historical sites of their cultural bounty without fear of getting caught.
Indeed, US officials say the brazen looting of ancient native-American artifacts, Civil War mementos, and other valuable relics is reaching epidemic proportions. In any given year, cultural thieves make off with $500 million in relics, the FBI estimates. On National Park Service land alone, they strike on average once a day.
"This is on a scale where it's radically affecting our ability to understand the past," says Martin McAllister, an independent archaeologist who has investigated over 200 damaged sites for state and federal departments. "We're talking a multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise here."
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