SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Bureau of Land Management agent who has been scrutinized for past behavior took valuable stones held as evidence and handed them out “like candy” to colleagues and a contractor, federal investigators said in a report released Thursday.
Daniel Love, who played a key role in the 2014 standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, has previously been faulted for using his influence to get tickets to a sold-out Burning Man event he was helping oversee security for and manipulating a job search for a friend.
Department of Interior investigators also found Love told an employee to scrub emails requested by then-U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Though the report doesn’t name Love, Chaffetz confirmed Thursday that the request was directed to the agent.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah declined to file criminal charges related to evidence mishandling. The BLM said Thursday he remains an employee but declined to elaborate.
A lawyer for Love, Lisa Kleine, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A publicly listed number for Love has been disconnected.
The report states that in spring 2016, Love told an employee to take seized stones known as moqui marbles out of an evidence room so he could give them to a contractor who had done work on the facility in Salt Lake City. The rocks are unique geological formations of iron oxide that form in sedimentary rock.
The agency had thousands of rocks that were seized during an investigation into whether they had been collected illegally from a national park, and a professor estimated their retail value at $160,000 to $520,000.
They were stored in dozens of 5-gallon (19-liter) buckets, and Love told an employee to get him four of the best rocks for gifts.
The employee told investigators he had “bad feeling” about taking them from the evidence room but followed instructions because Love was a law enforcement officer and “scary.” The contractor later returned the marbles.
Several other employees also had the stones, and one told investigators that Love was “giving them out like candy.”
The report also found that Love told an employee to scrub emails requested by the U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz in February 2016. Love told an employee to search his email for anything that might be inappropriate or demeaning and delete them or flag those emails so Love could review them.
During the investigation, Love refused to turn over his government-issued laptops, saying they’d been lost — something he previously told colleagues that he planned to do if he ever got in trouble. He declined to be interviewed by investigators.
Love oversaw the Bundy cattle roundup in Nevada in 2014. He also led BLM agents during a 2009 artifact-looting investigation in Southern Utah that marked an early skirmish in the struggle for control of public lands.
Love was sued over the artifacts raid by the family of a doctor, James Redd, who killed himself after he was arrested. Redd’s family filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2011 contending the federal agencies, including the BLM and the FBI, caused his death. That case is ongoing.
By LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.