SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Four people are in court today facing felony charges after allegedly purchasing and selling more than $1 million worth of dinosaur bones stolen from Utah.
According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday, a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City charged the four individuals with a 13-count indictment for purchasing, transporting, and exporting dinosaur bones to China for profit between March 2018 and March 2023.
Court documents indicate that Vint Wade, 65, and Donna Wade, 67, of Moab, Utah; Steven Willing, 67, of Los Angeles, California; and Jordan Willing, 40, of Ashland, Oregon, committed the felony offenses involving 150,000 pounds of stolen paleontological resources, including dinosaur bones, valued at over $1 million.
It’s reported that the dinosaur bones were illegally removed from federal and state lands in southeastern Utah, in turn violating the Paleontological Resources and Preservation Act (PRPA).
According to the release, the Wades purchased the paleontological resources by paying in cash and checks to known and unknown unindicted individuals, who allegedly would remove the dinosaur bones from federal land for the Wades’ personal use.
The Wades would then reportedly stockpile and sell the dinosaur bones at gem and mineral shows to national vendors, as well as to Steven and Jordan Willing who own a company called JMW Sales. Using their company, the Willings’ allegedly exported the bones to China by mislabeling and deflating their value to “avoid detection by federal agents.”
The release indicates that in addition to selling over $1 million in paleontological resources, the defendants also allegedly caused over $3 million in damages that include the commercial value of the resource, the scientific value of the resource, as well as the cost of restoration and repair.
“By removing and processing these dinosaur bones to make consumer products for profit, tens of thousands of pounds of dinosaur bones have lost virtually all scientific value, leaving future generations unable to experience the science and wonder of these bones on Federal land,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins. “We will hold accountable anyone who seeks to engage in similar criminal conduct.”
All defendants are reportedly charged with several crimes including conspiracy against the United States, violating the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, theft of property of the United States, and other charges alleged in the indictment.
The defendants will be making their initial court appearance for the indictment in Salt Lake City this afternoon, Oct. 19.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.