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FBI Arrests 4 College Interns For Stealing Lunar Materials 289

Posted by Hemos
from the striking-a-blow-for-profits dept.
An anonymous reader "Today, the fourth member of a group of college interns working at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston turned herself in after being charged with conspiracy to steal government property. Click2Houston.com has an article with a video feed covering many details of the case. Apparently, three of the alleged theives went to Florida and tried to sell, online, the 5 oz. of moon rocks and meteorite material they lugged out of the JSC in a 600lb case. Here's another article from the Houston Chronicle."
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FBI Arrests 4 College Interns For Stealing Lunar Materials

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  • by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk@ntlworld. c o m> on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:34AM (#3936033) Homepage
    And they didn't expect to get caught? I might understand if they were trying to sell a harddrive they had stolen from work, or a 2nd hand base unit they had sneaked out. But a few hundred pounds of moonrock are sure to be noticed, especially when you sell em on eBay!

    They deserve to get caught..
    • We're lucky that they weren't planning any terrorist activities with the rocks!
    • But a few hundred pounds of moonrock are sure to be noticed, especially when you sell em on eBay!

      You would be surprised, the kind of ideas you come up with after consuming a gallon of moonshine with your friends.

      "Hic! Man, this rocks! Show me the money! SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!"
      • One of these things [chron.com] is not like the other... tell me, can you guess which one?

        (Scroll down and look at the photos and descriptions)

        When I first saw the lineup I laughed out loud:

        • Thad Ryan Roberts, NASA co-op, Age: 25, Worked at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab Mission Operations Directorate. Triple major at University of Utah.
        • Tiffany Brooke Fowler, NASA intern, Age: 22, She worked in Biological Systems in Space and Life Sciences. Recent graduate of Texas Lutheran University. From Odessa.
        • Shae Lynn Saur, NASA intern, Age: 19, Worked in Structural Engineering with Thermal Design. Worked last summer in the X-38 program. Pursuing a B.S. in engineering from Lamar University.
        • Gordon Sean McWorter, Age: 26

        Just look at those photos and descriptions and then try to guess which one was saying (in his best Steve from Dell voice), "DUDE! Like, if you could get some of those rocks, we could make... like... I bet at least 200 bucks!" (Suppressed laughter to hold his smoke)

        Incidentally, I bet the University of Utah, Texas Lutheran University, and Lamar University are oh so happy with having their names displayed so prominently. Shining alumni indeed!

    • ...not for being so dumb for getting caught but for stealing the things in the first place. As already being pointed out by others:
      - The Sceptics View: It's from the moon but looks like a rock, big deal...
      - The Business Man's View: Who can you sell that stuff to, without any certificate of authenticity?
      - The Geek View: These things belong to the scientific community, not high-bidding assholes (same goes for art)

      Puhish them, why not giving them 6 months (probation?)? This is not the same as sneaking into school one night with a key that happens to open the door to the chemistry lab and stealing some magnesium and other cool stuff... ummm... That was only hypothetical and you can't prove anything!!
    • for making life hard for the rest of us at NASA. Because of this, every person interning at NASA is going to be put under the microscope.
      • Yeah right. NASA willl probably form a team to review the issue and come back with the suggestion of A) decreasing the standards for internship B) increasing the compensation.

        As for the FBI, gotta love those analytical skills
        To quote:

        "We put two and two together," Houston FBI spokesman Bob Doguim said Monday. "We had missing rocks in Houston, and some people trying to sell them online."

        Wow.
    • Well, they aren't rocket scientists.

      Ba dum bum CHING.
      • Well, they aren't rocket scientists.

        Well, one of them is apparently pretty close...

        # Shae Lynn Saur, NASA intern, Age: 19, Worked in Structural Engineering with Thermal Design. Worked last summer in the X-38 program. Pursuing a B.S. in engineering from Lamar University.
        In any case, there's a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. Remember that Wernher Von Braun [v2rocket.com] was (from what I've heard) pretty brilliant (and probably the reference for the 'rocket scientist' references.. Nontheless, he worked for Hitler in WW2. He either liked what Hitler was up to, or he didn't care enough to slow down his rocket research on the V1 and V2 rockets.
    • Thad Roberts (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      One of the arrested interns, was a student of mine when I was a teaching assistant at the University of Utah. He was quite a people-pleaser, but as I recall, had little academic ability. I was told, that he commonly cheated his way through classes. I can't substantiate such a claim, but given the difficulty he had with freshman physics, I don't find it difficult to believe.

      He was instrumental in starting the University of Utah Astronomical Society, though this was probably largely a social exercise for him, as his knowledge of astronomy was weaker than that of the average high-school student.

      Thad was quite fond of fantasizing about his future career as a Noble prize-winning astronaut (email was astronaut_thad@yahoo.com at one point). As great as my doubts were at the time about him achieving his ambitions, it seems quite unlikely that he shall succeed at this point; though it would be untrue to suggest that recent events are anything short of shocking, my perception of Thad as someone with a proclivity for dishonesty was apparently not entirely unjustified.

      I thought a little (scandal-mongering) biographica would be appropriate, as I doubt very much any of the major news sources are likely to interview me.

      Disclaimer: I am not presently affiliated in any way with the University of Utah, NASA, or Thad Roberts.
    • It's amazing what people will go through just to get their rocks off.
    • The first three -- Thad, Tiffany, and Gordon -- sound like just plain bad influence. Sorta sucks for Shae -- she's by far the youngest of the three and working as an intern there, and turned herself in.

      My guess -- three idiots think they can run off with hundreds of thousands of high-profile goods, and now the fourth is screwed for life for letting them pull it off.
  • by lfourrier (209630) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:37AM (#3936042)
    ...brings no
    money.

    sorry for the youngs here. A long time ago, there was some band named Pink Floyd...
  • ... 4 more interns at JSC have been caught trying to steal the Space Shuttle.
  • by Nashville Guy (585073) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:38AM (#3936047) Journal
    The rocks in their heads, instead.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is the cover-up of the fact that NASA stole them first from the inhabitants of the moon.
    I had the retaining wall in my garden knocked over, parts of it stolen,
    and they left kind of striped flag on my front porch.
  • from the striking-a-blow-for-profits dept.

    hmmm..
    how bout...from the dumb-as-a-box-of-moon-rocks dept.?

    or

    from the dumb-as-an-early-post-mocking-the-dept-title dept.?

    Nah. This is a non-story. Stupid people doing stupid things. Happens all the time. Hell, look at this post. :)
  • by iworm (132527) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:45AM (#3936064)
    "We put two and two together," Houston FBI spokesman Bob Doguim said Monday. "We had missing rocks in Houston, and some people trying to sell them online."

    Heck, they're clever these FBI chaps, eh?
  • Government property? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plumby (179557) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:46AM (#3936066)
    Why is it government property? I thought there was an agreement that the moon was not owned by any country or government. Surely taking the rock from the moon doesn't actually mean that you then own it (as you've then stolen it from the rest of the world). If it belongs to anyone one earth, then maybe the UN, but not an individual government.
    • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:54AM (#3936086) Homepage
      Us Government property, UN property... Hmm. Am I missing a distinction in there?

      Let's not split geopolitical hairs.

    • The U.S. considers all lunar material brought back to Earth (so far) to be the property of the U.S., and I agree with them. They (we) are the ones who spent billions of dollars to get there and fetch it.

      One point on which I don't agree is the idea that we own it forever. Apparently there was some recent disagreement (perhaps discussed here on the dot?) that involved a moon rock that had changed hands a few times. The first change of hands (from the U.S. to a foreign dignitary) was legit, but one or more of the later transfers were not legit. I don't agree that the U.S. has a legitimate claim to it.

      By the way, and I think this came out in the earlier discussion, I think you misunderstand the concept of "ownership" of the moon. While it's true that we have agreed that the moon will not be the sovereign territory of any nation, that does not mean that materials and resources obtained on the moon cannot be owned. The point is that anyone has access to it. If anyone brings stuff back, it's theirs.
      • The U.S. is not claiming the rock you cite RE: "recent disagreement" rather enforcing its own laws.

        The rock, gifted to the country of Honduras in 1973, was smuggled back into the United States in 1995 -- the carrier never declared it at customs. The U.S. also prohibits stolen material from reentering the country and according to a law professor familiar with the Honduran legal system, the rock was illegimately obtained (for their part, the Honduran gov't is asking for the rock to be returned.)

        You can read the latest on this case, here. [collectspace.com]

      • One point on which I don't agree is the idea that we own it forever. Apparently there was some recent disagreement (perhaps discussed here on the dot?) that involved a moon rock that had changed hands a few times. The first change of hands (from the U.S. to a foreign dignitary) was legit, but one or more of the later transfers were not legit. I don't agree that the U.S. has a legitimate claim to it.

        Should I happen to be so lucky to recall this particular dispute correctly, the issue was that the lunar rock in question had been gifted to a foreign dignitary, subsequently stolen, and was now in process of being resold.

        Ah. Here's a reference to the lunar dispute [collectspace.com]. Seems the Feds want to reclaim a rock originally given to Honduras by President Nixon so that they may return it to the Honduran government. The person most recently in possession of the rock claimed to have bought it from a Honduran military officer who, in turn, claimed to have been given it as a gift some time ago. The Honduran gov't claims they never let it go willingly in the first place.

        And here's a 1995 lunar rock dispute [cnn.com], wherein the Feds claimed a rock put up for sale was stolen in the mail some twenty-odd years back. No idea what the resolution was in that case.

        Two things I note, here: (1) proposed sale of lunar material invites close scrutiny by the Feds; and (2) the Feds don't seem to be claiming ownership without end, but instead inspection and enforcement of transfer to and among individuals.

        Makes me wonder whether such intervention on the part of the Federal Government is really out of line with handling of similar national treasures. (Yes, though given as goodwill trinkets to other nations, I do believe the expense and historical value of the materials in question qualify them as such.)

      • One point on which I don't agree is the idea that we own it forever. Apparently there was some recent disagreement (perhaps discussed here on the dot?) that involved a moon rock that had changed hands a few times. The first change of hands (from the U.S. to a foreign dignitary) was legit, but one or more of the later transfers were not legit. I don't agree that the U.S. has a legitimate claim to it.

        Well, if you had read the Lunar Materials End User License Agreement that was shrink-wrapped around those rocks, you would know that the Central American government only had a non-transferable license to house and view those rocks; we actually retained ownership. That EULA explicitly prohibits resale and reverse engineering, and disclaims the rocks to be suitable for any purpose.

        • the Lunar Materials End User License Agreement that was shrink-wrapped around those rocks...

          Actually, there is some disagreement here as well. The EULA was posted on a small brass placard mounted to a boulder in the center of the far side of the moon. It reads, in part, "By landing on this surface, you agree to be bound by the provisions of this license, including any future changes that may be made to it."
    • [i]Why is it government property? [/i]

      Procured with Government funds, perhaps?

      When individuals can send vehicles to land on the moon, scoop up samples, and return them safely, then they can do whatever with the samples.

      Rebuttal?
      • Kuwait was procured with Iraqi government funds. Does this meant that they should have been legally entitled to it?
        • Apples and oranges.
          The moon is an unoccupied 'territory' not owned or claimed by any nation on earth.
          Kuwait is an occupied country with a government citizens.

          We went to the moon and took some rocks that (last I checked) where just chillin on the moon not being used for anything.
          Iraq went to Kuwait and took over their oil fields, equipment and all. Those where being used for something, namely providing oil and money for the people of kuwait.

          Now, if we knowlingly took the moon rocks knowing they where the fuel and income source of the moon people then your analogy would stand.
          • The statement that I was replying to claimed that the reason it was US property was that it was Procured with Government funds, not that it wasn't being used by anyone else. The point was that procurement by government funds by itself is not enough justification to claim ownership by that government (and that was presented by the previous owner as the only justification needed).
            • Oh I see.
              My mistake.
            • The point was that procurement by government funds by itself is not enough justification to claim ownership by that government

              True, but the whole "government funds" angle is quite common in governmental policy. If Joe Schome's Moon Transport was hired by the gov't to go get moon rocks, then the gov't could claim ownership of the rocks. They specify "gov't funds" as a shorhand way of saying "not only did our employees go there and get it, we paid every cent of the cost of doing so, so there's no frickin' way anyone can claim part of the loot we brought back".
        • Kuwait was procured with Iraqi government funds. Does this meant that they should have been legally entitled to it?

          Yes. And they *were* legally entitled to it - it was theirs for awhile.

          Then about a dozen countries banded together and bought it back for the Kuwaiti people. What a nice gift.

          --
          Evan "You can buy things with money, subtlety, blood, or a combination of the three. Money and blood have finite limits".

    • by itsnotme (20905)
      Its not like you OWN the earth either, its been around longer than any of us and we are claiming that patches of land on it belong to us exclusively. Why should the moon be any different, greed is greed.
    • by the gnat (153162) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @06:58AM (#3936259)
      It's shocking how many people in this thread agree with you. As government property, it was available for research (one of the linked articles has an archived article discussing this) and held in trust for the people. In fact, that article says they get requests from institutions all over the world to study the rocks. Anyone who wants their own personal moon rocks can fund their own expedition to get them. I doubt the feds would have much of a case trying to wrest those away.

      At any rate, the point here is that these particular rocks were most certainly US property, and these assholes were trying to sell them to a private collector. I fail to see any gray area.
    • by mindstrm (20013)
      Okay.. so if I'm in the US of A, and I pick up a rock off the ground, and take it home to Costa Rica...

      have I 'stolen' US Property?

      • If it's a valuable rock (which I'm assuming the moon rock is), then quite possibly. You've probably breached someone's mineral rights.
        • by mindstrm (20013)
          But the moon rock is not valuable because of some inherent value. It's valuable because it's from the moon. There is no shortage of moon rock; it's not unique, nothing has been 'stolen' from the moon.Anyone else who goes there can get truckloads of it.

          So to say that the US has 'stolen' the rock from the moon because they don't have rights to the moon is absurd.

      • JSC houses a considerable collection of rocks they picked up from the ground from various sites around the world. They are meteorite fragments. In fact, this very case involved not just lunar rocks but samples of the infamous Mars meteorite. What do you think JSC security would think about you waltzing in there and just picking one or two up to take home?

        Many museums have extensive rock and mineral collections. Some consist of precious stones. Some are simply examples of more common minerals. You would find the same kind of reaction from their security if you decided to take home a sample from there too.

        Now - what if you launched your own moonshot a'la Salvage1 [geocities.com]. Then you would be free to pick up as many rocks as you wished and take them home to Costa Rica. Or begin a brisk business on eBay and complicate the FBI's future lunar sample theft investigations.
  • by Myco (473173) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:46AM (#3936067) Homepage
    What kind of idiot would buy moon rocks over the Internet for any appreciable sum of money? How exactly would you verify what you were buying? And what kind of idiot wouldn't know that any moon rocks for sale must be stolen property?

    There is, last time I checked, *one* moon rock in the U.S. (or the world?) that is in any way available to the public. You can go and touch it. I did. Whee. Looked like a rock, to me.

    • Where is this moon rock you can touch, out of interest?
    • There is also some moon regolite taken from Moon
      by Soviet station Luna-12. It was on display in
      Politech museum in Moscow, Russia...
      But it's not rocks, it's like sand or dirt.
    • "And what kind of idiot wouldn't know that any moon rocks for sale must be stolen property?"

      This is not true. You can find Moon rocks (even Mars rocks) on Earth since meteorites can tear material from the Moon (or Mars) at impact which may land on Earth afterwards.
    • Lunar "touchstones" are located at the National Air & Space Museum, Space Center Houston and the Museo de Las Ciencias in Mexico. (I believe Kennedy Space Center also has a touchstone, but I am not sure.)

      You could also buy [collectspace.com] touchable lunar dust earlier this year...

    • What kind of idiot would buy moon rocks over the Internet for any appreciable sum of money?

      Ironically, in this case, someone who would actually WANT moon rocks... these were legit!

      Hmmm... makes me re-think that whole Penis Enlargement ad I saw...

    • And what kind of idiot wouldn't know that any moon rocks for sale must be stolen property?

      To be honest, I didn't know until now that there weren't any moon rocks in private hands. If you had asked me yesterday, I would've speculated that NASA allowed the astronauts to keep some samples that they brought back. I mean, isn't that the LEAST they could do? I'd be pissed if I went to the moon, but they didn't let me keep any souvenir. :)

      Obviously I would expect some sort of authenticity verification...

    • I recall the dust on lunar space suits was auctioned to public by a private collector at one time.
    • (* What kind of idiot would buy moon rocks over the Internet for any appreciable sum of money? *)

      Hmmmm. Maybe I should sell "Fake Moon Rocks" via ebay or spam. Perhaps somebody wants to impress a babe or something. Don't need a real moon rock to do that since nobody without a lab can tell the difference. And, the prettier the girl, the less likely she has a lab. (No, I don't have statistics to back that.....yet.)

      "Fake Incased Moon Rock - Impress The Girls!"

      Sounds as good as any spam to me. Or how about:

      "Who needs a longer p*nis when you have a fake moon rock!"

    • by guttentag (313541) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @01:04PM (#3938631) Journal
      What kind of idiot would buy moon rocks over the Internet for any appreciable sum of money?
      The FBI.

      Idiot Selling Moon Rocks: "Hey, I got me some moon rocks for sale! Moon rocks! Get 'em while they're hot!"
      FBI Agent: "I'm very interested in your moon rocks. Where did you get them? I see... Where do I send the check?"

  • "...tiny pieces of lunar soil and a famous Martian meterorite valued at more than $1 million."

    So how do put a price on that:

    • Take it to "the price is right".
    • They are universally around US 599,999.99/lb. (varying galaxy to galaxy and depending on the exchange rate).
    • Taking the rocks to the "antique roadshow".
  • uhm? (Score:4, Funny)

    by zmooc (33175) <zmooc&zmooc,net> on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:47AM (#3936071) Homepage
    oz? lbs? People living somewhere on the southern hemisphere and a harddisk access format? What do they have to do with moonrocks?
  • ....thrown in jail just for mooning!
  • These guys should get a Darwin award ASAP for their stupidity.

    I hope they get a nice, large boyfriend in jail to remind them of their get rich fast idea.
  • other stolen rocks.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:50AM (#3936077) Homepage
    one year ago there was a big diamond theft in amsterdam. No guns were used.
    the diamonds wee carried out thtough the front door in a microwavebox!

    [http://www.preciousgemstones.com/gffall01.html# th iev]
    $8 Million in Diamonds Stolen in Microwave
    In the Netherlands, a 25-year-old man calmly walked out of the offices of Amsterdam's Gassan Diamonds carrying a box stuffed with uninsured diamonds. He had arrived at the office with the box at the start of the working day, saying it contained a microwave oven. Benno Leeser, director of the 56-year-old family-run firm said, "He came with a microwave in the box, but he left with the diamonds." The suspect, said to be a former army cook who had worked for the firm since April, has vanished without a trace.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:54AM (#3936087)
    It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

    Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

    Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

    Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.
    • "And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night." Ergo, the God-given purpose of the moon is to provide light during the night. Ergo, there cannot be such things as moonless nights. Ergo, the moon cannot orbit the earth.
  • by neksys (87486)
    Is there a market out there to make any money off this? I mean - if I ran across "L@@K - real MOON ROCK from SPACE MISSIONS!!!!! N/R!!!!!!!" on eBay, I'd assume it was just a joke at best, or a scam at worst. I mean, sure, you can sucker someone into paying $100 for a fake moon rock, but a million or so for a rock that, as far as the public is concerned, may or may not be real? It doesn't seem like all that great a plan - perhaps it would've been better to contact some private collectors directly.
  • Obviously the moon rock thieves felt their profits could be, er, sky-high.
  • I don't see why they didn't just try to convince Rocket Guy [rocketguy.com] to let them borrow the rocket so they could go up pick some lunar rocks of their own! :)
  • The wonders the web holds. One of the defendents identified by agents as the ring leader maintained an autobiography on NASA JSC's Co-Op website (since removed by NASA but archived by collectSPACE.com [collectspace.com]).

    Quoting Thad Roberts:

    "At NASA I have been assigned to the coolest department of all. Formally known as the Earth Science and Solar System Exploration Division (ESSSE) it is now know as the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES). Most of the people in my building are Geologists, and that's how I got in here.

    "There are so many potential adventures to be had in my building."

    Somehow, I don't think NASA had his type of adventures in mind...

    (More on this story here [collectspace.com].)

  • by af_robot (553885)
    Oh right, he must be the same guy who sells deneauralizer on ebay...
  • Where is the news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pieterh (196118) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @06:08AM (#3936124) Homepage
    What is the real story here? 10oz of rock fragments for $2000-8000 per oz = $20-80k, not really a million dollar heist. This amounts to a theft of around 1/1400th of the total brought back from the moon. Big deal. It's the price of one new car.
    It's maybe worth commenting how law enforcement is starting to use the Internet to cross reference thefts with sales. But seriously: doing manual searches of e-Bay is not what I'd consider automation.
    Summer time... and the news is slow.
  • by McCart42 (207315) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @06:10AM (#3936129) Homepage
    It'll be interesting to see them use the defense that "it was the moon rock gnomes!" ...can't resist this one.

    1. Steal moon rocks.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!
  • For any far reaching businessman, the Moon means ready cash. Heck, and $8000 an ounce, this should make a private enterprise trip to the Moon financially viable. Send up an unmanned probe with a big scoop and bucket and you should be able to get a few hundred pounds back no problem. 100 pounds of the stuff will get you almost 13 million dollars. With all the money leaving the stock market, the rich need to invest in something. Forget gold, invest in Moon rocks!

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Mutant (167716) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @06:51AM (#3936238) Homepage
    How on earth did they expect to get away with it, considering its relatively (in italics since I'm assuming folks like these would have clear knowledge) well known that possession of moon rocks by US citizens is illegal [collectspace.com].

    Its even been discussed on /. [slashdot.org] before.

    Now that being said, its very common in the art world for works of art - sometimes priceless ones at that - to be stolen and to disappear into private collections.

    And I could fully understand if any one of these geeks took the rocks and stashed them away in their bedrooms. Hell, who wouldn't want a chunk of the moon in their bedroom?

    But to try to sell on the 'Net?!??

    I'm missing something here, but I guess its because was assuming they were bright.

    • This law then doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Considering the fact that, given the effort, it is perfectly legal to visit Antarctica, plus the fact that a lot of material from Mars, and even probably from the moon, can be found there, it is very well possible to own this kind of material, without the need to ever visit the actual moon/planet(s).
  • by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @08:03AM (#3936501)
    ... one of them tried to smoke the moon rock in thier crack pipe.
  • "I've got moon rocks in my nose!"
    -Ralph Wiggum
  • .. Damn it. I knew I should have used Buy It Now. Now the auction is gone :( No moon rocks for me, and I was all ready to paypal those guys too.
  • "FBI Arrests 4 College Interns For Stealing Lunar Materials"

    When I read this headline, the first image in my mind was of college kids building a rocket and 'stealing' lunar materials. I can see some MIT kids getting drunk and doing exactly that heh. As for the FBI getting involved: Anybody remember that Simpsons quote "The Moon belongs to America." :)

  • by Gennette (595301) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @11:13AM (#3937776)
    Here's what I get from reading the actual article in the Houston paper, rather than just reading the little summary. Four friends decide it would be funny to post something about selling moon rocks. They haven't stolen the rocks at this point, and they probably don't really intend to. They have some good laughs over it, I'm sure. Then, someone actually replies about wanting them! (someone that is just a front for the FBI) Encouraged by the huge amount that he is supposedly willing to pay, they are enticed to actually steal the rocks. In fact, they don't even steal them till after the undercover FBI people set up a price and meeting place. By this point, they feel like they're in too deep to back out. The joke has gone too far. They feel they have no choice but to actually follow through. Hello entrapment! (anyone who actually read it, feel free to discuss...others please don't comment)
    • You wouldn't happen to be their defense lawyer, would you? Because that's exactly the argument I'd take to try to make to weasel out of this. "It's ahl a gubmint cohnspeerasee yah honah! These heah rocket wizahds was TRICKED into a life ah crime!"

      I'm not a lawyer, but if I recall correctly, entrapment only occurs when the enforcement organization actively initiates the transaction or crime.

      For example, let's say that the FBI puts two and two together (as they're apparently good at doing) and thinks that Senator Hollings is on the take. They call him up, offer him some money in return for some legislation, and pay him off. Well, ok, that's not a great example because we already know he's on the take, so this is just a sting proving his behavior. ;-)

      Instead, let's say your local police force sends an undercover officer to your house and the cop convinces/coerces you to take his gun and hold up the convenience store down the street. He goes with you and arrests you when you pull out the gun in the store. That's entrapment.

      If, however, I start asking around about where I can get a gun fast and the police get tipped off and start an undercover operation to catch me doing whatever it is I'm planning, that's not entrapment.

      Regardless of their original intent, at least one of these four posted an email saying they had lunar materials for sale on a web site and subsequently followed through with the theft and attempted sale. Their intent could conceivably have bearing on sentencing, but shouldn't on whether or not they're guilty of the crime. They said they had moon rocks for sale, they stole moon rocks, they tried to sell the stolen moon rocks. Period.

      (And yes, I read the Chron article. [chron.com])

  • What I find really interesting about this story (as well as the assertations I have read of it being illegal for an American to own lunar surface artifacts) is the high value placed on these things.

    While I understand that the properties of lunar dust and rocks is unique, it is still just "dirt". Nothing really that special. What makes these things so valuable isn't their properties, or the rarity - but rather the amount of money and time it took to go there and get them, and bring them back.

    The only way these items could ever drop in value would be if travel to the moon became more routine, especially if artifacts were brought back. However, I wonder if certain interests want to prevent this from happenning.

    Here we are, the world, a couple of years into a new millenium, and the greatest acheivement ever in mankind's history happened 30 years ago, and has never been repeated. Instead, we wage war on each other, stifle each other's rights, are ground up and spit out, and if we are lucky, we die leaving a little something behind for our children.

    So fucking pathetic.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson

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