Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Bad to the bone.

Four people have been accused of stealing $1 million in dinosaur bones from public land in Utah and selling and shipping the prehistoric findings to China, the DOJ revealed Thursday.

Vint Wade, 65, Donna Wade, 67, of Utah, Steven Willing, 67, of Los Angeles and Jordan Willing, 40, Oregon were arrested and slapped with 13 felony counts for allegedly dealing in 150,000 pounds of stolen paleontological resources, including dinosaur bones from March 2018 and until “at least” March 2023, court documents show.

During that time, the Wades had allegedly stockpiled paleontological resources to sell at gem and mineral shows around the US while selling some of the findings to the Willings’ who “exported the dinosaur bones to China by mislabeling the dinosaur bones and deflating their value to avoid detection by federal agents.”

The indictment alleges the accused conspired to purchase dinosaur bones from two unnamed, unindicted co-conspirators, who illegally excavated and removed them from public lands for profit.

The charges for all defendants also include conspiracy against the United States and violating the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act. Utah Attorney’s Office

“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 US Attorney Trina A. Higgins.

The defendants allegedly caused over $3 million in damages that included the scientific value of the resource, the commercial value of the resource, and the cost of restoration and repair.

The indictment alleges that the Wades purchased the dinosaur bones from the unindicted co-conspirators who had removed them from federal land.

The Wades had allegedly stockpiled paleontological resources to sell at gem and mineral shows around the US.Utah Attorney’s Office

They then stockpiled the bones for resale to national vendors at gem and mineral shows, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors showed photo evidence of bone fragments and jewelry labeled “gembones” that appeared to be made from cut and polished dinosaur bones sold during the gem and mineral shows.

Those sales include the $1 million worth of bones bought by the Willings’, who used Jordan company, Blue Marble — an educational supply company — to export them to China, mislabeling them and deflating their value to avoid US export bans, according to the indictment.

The indictment states all four “knew or should have known that these paleontological resources were excavated, removed, sold, purchased, exchanged, transported, and received from Federal lands.”

Photo evidence reportedly shows bone fragments and jewelry labeled “gembones” that appeared to be made from cut and polished dinosaur bones sold during the gem and mineral shows.Utah Attorney’s Office

“The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are dedicated to protecting paleontological resources throughout the State of Utah. We will hold accountable anyone who seeks to engage in similar criminal conduct,” Higgins said.

The Bureau of Land Management and FBI are investigating the case with assistance from the Grand County Sheriff and San Juan County Sheriff Offices.

“The Bureau of Land Management should be greatly commended in dismantling the illegal trade of paleontology artifacts here in our community,” said Grand County Sheriff Jamison Wiggins.

All defendants are reportedly charged with several crimes, including conspiracy against the United States, violating the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA), theft of property of the United States, and other charges alleged in the indictment.

Paleontological resources mean any fossilized remains, traces, or imprints of organisms, preserved in or on the earth’s crust, that have paleontological interest and provide information about the history of life on Earth, according to the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act.

The defendants appeared at their initial court appearance on Thursday in Salt Lake City. 

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