The Wades allegedly "stockpiled" the fossils and sold them at gem and mineral shows, prosecutors claimed. The couple is also accused of selling dinosaur bones to Steven Willing, 67, of Los Angeles, and Jordan Willing, 40, of Ashland, Oregon, the other two defendants charged in the indictment.
These transactions occurred from March 2021 until March 2023, prosecutors said.
The Willings took the bones to China, hiding them from federal agents by mislabeling them and deflating their value, according to officials.
Some of the dinosaur bones were made into products like dinosaur dig kits, carved figurines, knives, and jewelry, National Geographic reported.
Investigators reached the one-million-dollar valuation based on "150,000 pounds of paleontological resources, including dinosaur bones, illegally removed from federal and state lands in southeastern Utah."
All four defendants were charged in a 13-count indictment filed by federal prosecutors in Utah. The charges include conspiracy against the U.S., theft of property of the U.S., and violating the Paleontological Resources Prevention Act.
“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.
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Officials said the defendants also caused $3 million in damages for "the commercial value of the resource, the scientific value of the resource, and the cost of restoration and repair."
According to National Geographic, one of the largest stolen dinosaur bone busts occurred in 2006, when 8,000 pounds of fossils were seized by customs officials. The loot—including thousands of dinosaur eggs, petrified pine cones, and prehistoric crabs—had reportedly been stolen from Argentina and was headed to a gem and mineral show in Tucson, Arizona.
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