New report faults controversial BLM agent for mishandling evidence

Office of Inspector General claims BLM law enforcement officer Dan Love misappropriated evidence, dodged requests from Congress and destroyed federal records.

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Former BLM special agent Dan Love, center.

While Dan Love was in charge of Bureau of Land Management law enforcement for Utah, rare items known as moqui marbles appeared all over the agency’s Salt Lake City headquarters, apparently as gifts and office decor.

A new report targeting the embattled federal lawman concluded Love misappropriated the strange, naturally-occurring globes, which were evidence in an ongoing criminal probe, and instructed a subordinate to conceal his misconduct and thwart a congressional enquiry.

The Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) posted the report Thursday at the request of House Natural Resource Committee, chaired by Utah’s Rep. Rob Bishop. Committee staff confirmed the unnamed officer implicated in the report is the controversial Love, who the BLM has since transferred. 

Bishop said he expects Interior to take action against Love’s alleged misconduct that includes destruction of federal records and defiance of congressional document requests.

“The people of Utah and Nevada — and the American taxpayers — deserve better,” Bishop said. “I look forward to seeing how this Administration responds to the unethical behavior uncovered by the report. We must take steps to restore trust in federal law enforcement officers and hold employees accountable for their mismanagement of our taxpayer resources.”

For years, Utah politicians have singled out Love as the embodiment of federal overreach on public lands, citing his arrogance toward local sheriffs as lawmakers sought ways to limit BLM law enforcement. Love supervised the undercover sting that led to the 2009 arrests of two dozen people for trafficking looted artifacts and the failed effort in 2014 to impound Cliven Bundy’s cattle from public lands around Bunkerville, Nev.

The family of James Redd, a suspect in the artifacts case, blame Love for the Blanding physician’s suicide following armed officers’ raid on his home and the interrogation Love conducted in Redd’s garage. The Redds’ wrongful death lawsuits have been thrown out of court.

Love, who could not be reached Thursday, declined to be interviewed by OIG investigators on the advice of counsel.

Earlier this year, the OIG faulted Love for pressuring Burning Man organizers to give special access to the multi-day arts festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to friends and family. 

The moqui marble caper stemmed from the BLM’s 2012 criminal investigation into the removal of thousands of the geological oddities from a national park. Moqui marbles are spherical accretions of the mineral hematite that erode from southern Utah’s sandstone formations and collect in depressions. 

Officers had seized the marbles and stored them in 80 five-gallon buckets at the BLM’s evidence room in Salt Lake City. A University of Utah geology professor estimated their retail at between $160,000 and 520,000.

In 2016, as officers were counting the purloined marbles, according to the report, Love told them they could each take one and display it on their desks. Love also instructed a subordinate to give him three of four of the best marbles which he intended to give to a BLM contractor as a gift.

“The subordinate told us he ‘had a bad feeling’ about removing the marbles from evidence, but he did not question the instructions because the senior manager was a law enforcement official and was ‘scary,’” the report states.

Others BLM staffers received marbles as gifts in 2016, including Sal Lauro, who then headed law enforcement for the BLM.

The OIG report also concluded Love obstructed an investigation into an employment-related matter by instructing a subordinate “scrub” his emails where he used inappropriate or demeaning language. Last year, Love also ordered a subordinate to identify sensitive material sought by then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, as part of an official inquiry.

“The subordinate told us he felt morally wrong about deleting the emails, but he did not discuss his feelings with [Love],” the report states. “He also said the senior manager was very intimidating, manipulative, and controlling, and he did not believe he could report the matter to Lauro or other [law enforcement] officials because [Love] was ‘very, very close’ to them.”

The OIG presented its finding to the Utah’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, which declined to prosecute. The report has been submitted to senior Interior officials for further action. A BLM spokesman did not return a phone message.