Commenting on the votive nature of the offerings, Stefano De Caro dixit:
"The lake was basically an open votive deposit. The Latin-speaking people who lived there offered their ceramic artifacts to a deity probably connected to the spring. We believe that a 7th to 6th century B.C. sanctuary can be found at its bottom."
"These were poor people, they gave thanks for a good harvest or they prayed that there wouldn't be a drought. At the time there were no aqueducts, so the lake meant life."
Dixit Peter Attema (to Discovery News):
"The Laghetto del Monsignore is a most important open-air sanctuary where the Latin peoples living in the surrounding areas dedicated offerings from the early Iron Age onward. It is of the utmost importance that the looted material be studied by specialists, and it is hoped that a regular excavation will be started to save what is left of this unique find."
Dixit the Carabinieri:
"He told us that he had found just a few fragments. Given the fact that he had already violated the law by not reporting to authorities his finding, we did not believe him and searched his house. Indeed, we seized 500 well-preserved miniatures."
Of course, what is not mentioned in this story is that the farmer (who probably wasn't very wealthy himself) was pretty much put in a no-win situation due to Italy's antiquity laws. He found antiquities -- if he reports them, he risks losing his land (as he appears to have, no?) although he will get some compensation (but probably not enough to balance the loss of his land). I really wish Italy would adopt some sort of Portable Antiquities Scheme-type arrangement ... I'm sure there would be a boom in archaeological discoveries.
The bust was actually one of three operations which received quite a bit of press attention. The 'farmer case' appears to be Operation Satricum; in addition, we read of "Feno" and "Domitilla". Feno turned up a ninth century head of Hecate, while Domitilla recovered from an online sale a mosaic from the catacombs of St. Domitilla.
On the 'farmer case
• Farmer digs up ancient sanctuary in Italy (GMA)
• Farmer digs up ancient sanctuary in Italy (MSNBC)
• VIDEO: Farmer Busted With Artifacts (NG)
• Police Captures Roman Artifacts Dug by Farmer (Softpedia ... yes, that's the headline)
• Ancient 'Treasure' Found in Farmer's Bookshelf (Discovery)
On the other operations:
• Sequestrate 500 miniature antiche ad un privato (Il Tempo)
• Un tesoro nel laghetto vicino casa (ibid)
• Carabinieri: sequestrati reperti archeologici e opere trafugate (Artelab)
• Recuperata dai carabinieri stipe votiva del santuario sconosciuto al mondo scientifico (IGN/Adnkronos)
• Beni culturali/ Carabinieri,eccezionale ritrovamento archeologico (Virgilio)
•Italy recovers Greek goddess bust in antiquity raids (Reuters)
•Carabinieri: sequestrati reperti archeologici e opere trafugate. I risultati di tre distinte operazioni condotte a Roma e nel Lazio dal Reparto Operativo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (Museum Security Network)
•Il ritrovamento di beni archeologici effettuato dai Carabinieri (Il Sole ... video)
UPDATE 12/24/08: Dan Diffendale adds a VERY IMPORTANT detail about the votive deposit in the lake, namely that it was actually discovered a decade ago and there was quite a bit of illegal activity associated with the site at the time. Our farmer might not be the potential-expropriation-victim I painted him to be ...