Four individuals are appearing in court on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah, facing felony charges for their alleged involvement in purchasing and selling stolen dinosaur bones worth over $1 million. The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday that a federal grand jury indicted Vint Wade, Donna Wade, Steven Willing, and Jordan Willing on 13 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, violating the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, and theft of property of the United States.
According to court documents, the defendants are accused of purchasing, transporting, and exporting 150,000 pounds of stolen paleontological resources, including dinosaur bones, between March 2018 and March 2023. The bones were reportedly illegally removed from federal and state lands in southeastern Utah, in violation of the Paleontological Resources and Preservation Act.
The indictment alleges that Vint and Donna Wade, residents of Moab, Utah, purchased the dinosaur bones by paying cash and checks to known and unknown individuals who would remove the bones from federal land. The Wades then allegedly stockpiled and sold the bones at gem and mineral shows to national vendors, as well as to Steven and Jordan Willing, who own a company called JMW Sales. The Willings are accused of exporting the bones to China by mislabeling and undervaluing them to avoid detection by federal agents.
In addition to the charges related to the illegal purchase and sale of the dinosaur bones, the defendants are also accused of causing over $3 million in damages, including the commercial and scientific value of the resources, as well as the cost of restoration and repair.
U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins emphasized the impact of such actions, stating, “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.”