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Two men charged with violating the Underwater Antiquities Act in Aiken County

Fox and Tarpein

Ryan Nicholas Fox (left), Nathan Lee Tarpein (right)

Two men were arrested June 15 for violating the Underwater Antiquities Act at the Savannah River.

Nathan Lee Tarpein, 41, and Nicholas Ryan Fox, 24, were charged with exclusive license violations of the Underwater Antiquities Act. 

On May 11, police observed what appeared to be a logging operation setup at Steel Creek Landing in Barnwell County on the Savannah River, according to an incident report obtained from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

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Officers said there were two long trailers and a boat on the bank of the river. Three fishermen at the location told law enforcement that the boat, along with a pontoon barge and another boat were out on the river pulling logs, according to the report.

After contacting the South Carolina State Underwater Archaeologist, police were informed there were no active permits for the recovery of historic submerged logs in the Savannah River. 

Police observed the same group of fishermen on May 13 at Steel Creek Landing. Photographs were taken of the operation.

On the morning of May 19, police received a tip that there was "a logging operation in full swing" near the lock and dam on the Savannah River in Aiken County, according to the report.

Officers observed that the boats were the same as those seen on May 13. A summons was issued to the fishermen for a no diver down flag.

While police observed the suspects on the bank, they heard the suspects state that they could "only enforce hunting and fishing laws, not laws on what they were doing," according to the report.

Officers were observing the operation from a distance when they saw a suspect in a black wetsuit emerge from the water and hand his flippers and scuba tank to the other suspect before climbing onto the barge and using a winch, according to the report. 

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The officers then saw a log appear from the water between the pontoon boats and pontoon barge. Suspects went to the parking area and brought back a piece of heavy equipment. 

The forklift-like equipment was then used to pull the log up the boat landing and out of the water.

Suspects transported the log to the parking area and the suspect in the wetsuit went back out to the location. Police observed the suspect in the wetsuit "put on his flippers and scuba tank and proceed back into the river," according to the report.

The suspects pulled another log out of the water and brought it to the parking area.

While officers documented the logs and took photos, the subjects went back to the river "for a short period of time and came back to the landing with yet another log," according to the report.

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