Man Convicted in Moon Rocks Theft

Man Convicted in Moon Rocks Theft

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Salt Lake City man was convicted Wednesday of attempting to sell a collection of moon rocks and meteorites stolen by three NASA interns last year.

Gordon McWhorter, 27, was convicted in federal court of stealing property of value to the United States and interstate transportation of stolen property. He faces up to 25 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Sentencing is scheduled Aug. 27. His attorney said he plans to appeal.

McWhorter was the only defendant tried for the July 15 thefts from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Tiffany Fowler, 26, Thad Roberts, 26, and Shae Saur, 20, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft and interstate transportation of stolen property. They will be sentenced Aug. 5.

The stolen rocks came from every Apollo mission from 1969 to 1972.

The FBI began investigating in May 2002 when a Belgian rock collector alerted investigators to Internet offers to sell moon rocks for $1,000 to $5,000 a gram.

The rocks were found when McWhorter, Roberts and Fowler were arrested in Orlando. The rocks, meteorites and NASA records documenting their authenticity were stored in a fishing tackle box, according to court records. Saur was arrested in Houston the same day.

Roberts was a once-promising science student and aspiring astronaut from the University of Utah.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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