Report: Artifacts source blamed self for suicides

By Paul Foy and Mike Stark
Salt Lake City, Utah (AP) April 2010

Two days before he killed himself, the undercover informant in a federal sting targeting looted Southwestern artifacts told a friend he felt responsible for the suicides of two defendants, according to police reports released Thursday.

Ted Gardiner told the friend he was upset over his involvement in the case and felt like he’d been “thrown to the curb,” according to records released by the Unified Police Department at the request of The Associated Press.

The sting eventually led to charges against 26 people for allegedly stealing and trafficking in American Indian relics taken illegally from public and tribal lands.

Two people, including a prominent southern Utah doctor, committed suicide last June shortly after the indictments were announced.

Police were called to Gardiner’s home in Holladay on Feb. 27 after reports that he was threatening to take his own life. A friend who came to his aid told investigators that Gardiner was suicidal, saying over and again that he was “done.”

The friend, a woman Gardiner met at Alcoholics Anonymous years earlier, told police that the 52-year-old informant said he was rattled by the suicides in the case, believing he had “killed two people.”

A woman who called 911 that night from his house told a dispatcher Gardiner had a gun and was threatening suicide.

“You’re really going to hurt me bad if you do this,” she told him. A short time later, she was overheard saying, “Put your gun away.”

Gardiner was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation and released the next morning.

Police were called to Gardiner’s house the next day by a roommate who said Gardiner was again suicidal and brandishing a gun.

An officer reported seeing Gardiner kneeling with his head on a bed and a gun in his hand. At one point, Gardiner pointed the gun at his own head, according to the reports. The officer, who had his gun drawn, told Gardiner to drop his weapon.

“You’re gonna have to do what you have to do,” Gardiner replied.

The officer said that when Gardiner swung the gun in his direction, he fired a shot that missed as he backed out of Gardiner’s bedroom.

Gardiner shot himself in the head a short time later.

Gardiner, a former antiquities dealer and grocery chain CEO, worked undercover for the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for more than two years.

He wore a wire and transmitted live video and audio signals to federal agents who monitored his transactions with a cast of dealers and collectors in Western states.

He eventually struck deals for more than 250 artifacts worth more than $335,000. He was typically paid around $7,500 a month.

Of the 26 defendants, four have pleaded guilty. Trials for the others are scheduled for later this year.