A 32-year-old who used foot soldiers to do his bidding has been sentenced on felony charges in connection with the thefts at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado. The site reported missing reproduction flintlock firearms, buffalo hides, cash and other items along with two other locations in Bent and Otero counties.
Jeffery Scott Willcoxon, of Otero County, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of firearms, U.S. Attorney for Colorado John F. Walsh and Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced September 12.
Bent’s Old Fort was built in 1833 as a trading post for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and with trappers dealing in buffalo hides and other commodities. At that time, it was the only major settlement on the Santa Fe Trail and exists today as a replica of the original fort.
Stolen from Bent’s Old Fort were nine high-quality reproductions of historical rifles used by the U.S. Army Cavalry on the Plains, each valued at about $1,000 by the ATF. Two were purchased back during undercover operations and several were found hidden under a tarp in a field, officials said.
The other historical sites targeted for theft were the Boggsville Historical Site in Bent County and the Kit Carson Museum in Cheyenne Wells. Taken from the museum was a .45 caliber Peacemaker, a U.S. Army first-year production model revolver from 1873 with a 50 percent value of $26,000, according to the ATF.
Two buffalo hides taken from the Boggsville site were found and returned to the museum, officials said.
In all, 26 firearms, including machine guns, fully automatic rifles with silencers and stolen historical firearms were purchased or seized during an investigation by the Pueblo, Colorado ATF Gun Task Force, Pueblo and Las Animas, Colorado Police Departments, Otero and Bent Counties Sheriff’s Offices, and the National Park Service (NPS).
Willcoxon was “directing several juveniles to steal firearms” according to a Las Animas police official, and was “taking the stolen firearms to a local man who was known as an avid firearms collector.” Publicity in the case resulted in a tip from a Pueblo resident who said he purchased a stolen buffalo hide from a man who subsequently was identified as Willcoxon.
An undercover ATF officer, claiming to be a felon who was unable to possess firearms legally, made a number of firearms purchases from Willcoxon.
Alexa Roberts, Bent’s Old Fort NPS superintendent, praised the law enforcement officials “for their collaboration and professionalism in the quick resolution of this case.”