Illegal Sale of Dinosaur Bones That Were Shipped to China

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A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City returned a 13-count indictment charging four people with allegedly buying and selling more than $1 million in “paleontological resources,” which includes dinosaur bones that were exported to China, authorities announced Thursday.

Vint Wade, 65, and Donna Wade, 67, of Moab, Utah; Steven Willing, 67, of Los Angeles, and Jordan Willing, 40 of Ashland, Oregon, committed multiple felonies and violated the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, also known as PRPA, according to a Thursday statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah.

Authorities did not specify any relationship between Vint Wade and Donna Wade. Steven Willing was identified as the father of Jordan Willing, according to the indictment.

Over five years, from March 2018 to March 2023, the defendants bought, moved and exported dinosaur bones from federal land, prosecutors allege. The four are also accused of knowingly hiding and keeping stolen property belonging to the United States.


They also face charges of conspiracy against the United States, violation of the PRPA, theft of U.S. property and other violations, prosecutors said.

The figure of $1 million in paleontological resources amounts to 150,000 pounds of resources, prosecutors said.

The PRPA defines paleontological resources as “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.”

The defendants also caused more than $3 million in damages that include the commercial value and scientific value of the resources, prosecutors said, as well as the cost of restoration and repair.

Bones, fossils, and other paleontological resources from the Jurassic period are exposed in the Morrison Formation in southeastern Utah surrounding Moab, Utah, mostly in federal land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, according to the indictment.

Two unindicted co-conspirators were listed in the indictment. They were described as collectors of dinosaur bones who excavated, removed, transported, and sold paleontological resources from federal land to the Wades, the indictment said.

According to prosecutors, the Wades stockpiled the paleontological resources to sell at gem and mineral shows and to national vendors. They also sold paleontological resources, prosecutors said, to Steven and Jordan Willing. The Willings, through their company, JMW Sales Inc, exported the dinosaur bones to China by mislabeling them, which reduced their value. The mislabeling was done to elude detection of federal agents, prosecutors said.

Rachel Cannon, an attorney representing Jordan Willing, said in an email on Friday that her client “vigorously disputes the allegations and looks forward to having his day in court.”

An attorney listed in court documents for Vint Wade declined to comment Friday.

Attorneys listed as representing the remaining two defendants were not immediately reached Friday afternoon. The defendants were scheduled to make their initial appearance in court on Thursday, prosecutors said.

Cannon said Jordan Willing pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday, was not required to post bond and was never detained, Cannon said.

The U.S. attorney in the case noted that the alleged theft had deprived Americans of seeing the “science and wonder” of the relics in nature.

“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,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah Trina A. Higgins said in a statement.


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