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Four people accused of stealing and selling $1 million worth of dinosaur bones from southern Utah

Over five years, the defendants allegedly purchased, transported and exported 150,000 pounds of fossilized materials.

(U.S. Attorney's Office) This is a carving made from dinosaur bone that Vint and Donna Wade, Moab residents, allegedly sold to Steven and Jordan Willing. This carving was listed for individual sale for $48,000. The Wades and Willings were indicted on Thursday, charged with conspiracy and theft of property against the United States, as well as multiple felony charges for violating the federal Paleontological Resources Preservation Act.

Four people allegedly stole and sold $1 million worth of dinosaur bones and other fossilized materials from federal land in southeastern Utah, according to a federal grand jury indictment returned on Thursday.

The defendants allegedly purchased, transported and exported 150,000 pounds of paleontological resources between March 2018 and March 2023.

There are two Utahns accused of the crime: Vint Wade, 65, and Donna Wade, 67, who own Wade’s Wood & Rocks in Moab. Steven Willing, 67 from Los Angeles, California, and Jordan Willing, 40 from Ashland, Oregon, were also arrested.

The defendants have been charged with conspiracy and theft of property against the United States, as well as multiple felony charges for violating the federal Paleontological Resources Preservation Act.

The Wades of Moab allegedly bought paleontological resources that were taken from federal land from “known and unknown unindicted individuals,” who allegedly stole the dinosaur bones for the Wades’ own personal use, according to the indictment.

(U.S. Attorney's Office) The United States tested over 1,000 dinosaur bones samples seized in this operation. This one was priced at $4,500.

The Wades allegedly collected these stolen fossilized materials in order to sell them at “gem and mineral shows.” They are also accused of selling the illegally removed resources to Steven and Jordan Willing.

The Willings’ company, JMW Sales, then exported dinosaur bones to China, according to the indictment. They allegedly tried to hide the exports from the federal government by mislabeling the dinosaur bones and deflating their value.

“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 Trina A. Higgins said in a statement. “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.”

The defendants also caused more than $3 million in damage by removing paleontological resources from southeastern Utah, the indictment says. That sum includes the resources’ commercial value, scientific value and restoration and repair costs.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Salt Lake City Field Office are investigating this case with the Bureau of Land Management Monticello Field Office, along with the Grand County and San Juan County Sheriff Offices.