In a paleontological scandal that could rival the plot of a Hollywood thriller, four people, including a Los Angeles man, have been accused of illegally trafficking over a million dollars’ worth of dinosaur bones, unraveling the mysteries of prehistoric life hidden within the rugged landscapes of Utah.
A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City indicted the group for their alleged involvement in purchasing and selling more than $1 million worth of paleontological resources, which included 150,000 pounds of dinosaur bones illegally taken from federal and state lands in southeastern Utah.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah charged Vint Wade, 65; Donna Wade, 67, from Moab, Utah; Steven Willing, 67, from Los Angeles; and Jordan Willing, 40, from Ashland, Oregon, with multiple felony offenses under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (PRPA).
From March 2018 to at least March 2023, the defendants allegedly engaged in the illicit purchase, transportation, and export of dinosaur bones from federal lands. They are also accused of conspiring to conceal and retain stolen U.S. property knowingly.
The Wades bought paleontological resources from unknown individuals, paying in cash and checks, and those individuals extracted dinosaur bones for the Wades’ personal use, prosecutors said.
The Wades stockpiled these resources for sale at gem and mineral shows to national vendors and sold some to Steven and Jordan Willing, the Utah U.S. attorney’s office said. The Willings, operating through their company JMW Sales, are said to have exported the dinosaur bones to China by mislabeling them and underreporting their value to evade federal detection.
The consequences of their actions go beyond the $1 million in illegal sales, as they caused over $3 million in damages, including the commercial and scientific value of the resources, along with restoration and repair costs, prosecutors allege. The defendants now await trial and face potential penalties under the PRPA for their alleged offenses.
“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.
Source: NBC Los Angeles