Man pleads guilty to destroying Iroquois artifacts

Utica, New York (AP) 11-07

A former U.S. Postal Service driver pleaded guilty during late in federal court to destroying a package that contained Iroquois artifacts.

In a plea agreement, Donald G. Ring III, 36, of Watertown, admitted to a felony charge of theft of mail by a postal employee before Judge David Hurd. Ring, who had been a self-employed contract carrier for the postal service for 12 years, said loose equipment in his truck smashed the package in December 2006. Ring told postal service investigators he was afraid of losing his job, so he destroyed the package in his backyard burn pit.

The package contained two “false face” masks and eight beaded picture frames, some holding antique photos, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The masks are used in sacred healing ceremonies and meant only for the Haudenosaunee people, not public display, according to Tony Gonyea, a member of the Onondaga Nation.

The artifacts were valued at about $10,000. Frank Bergevin of Alexandria Bay paid for the items to be shipped via international Express Mail from England, according to court documents.

The plea stipulates that Ring will pay restitution of $7,280, the amount Bergevin paid for the items, said defense attorney Melissa Tuohey.

Ring also could face up to five years in federal prison and fines as high as $250,000 when he’s sentenced in March.