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Utah Man Sentenced for Moon Rock Thefts

August 27, 2003

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ A man convicted of trying to sell moon rocks stolen from NASA was sentenced to nearly six years in prison.

Gordon Sean McWhorter, 27, of Salt Lake City, was convicted in June and received a five-year, 10-month sentence Tuesday. He could have been sentenced to 25 years for stealing property of value to the United States and interstate transportation of stolen property.

McWhorter, who has maintained his innocence, did not appear for his April trial in Orlando and was arrested three days later in Utah.

McWhorter was one of four people arrested in an FBI sting that began when a Belgian rock collector alerted investigators to Internet offers to sell moon rocks for $1,000 to $5,000 a gram.

The moon rocks stolen last year from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston came from every Apollo mission from 1969 to 1972.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and defense lawyers said the moon rocks and a Martian meteorite were worth at least $5.1 million in 1973. With inflation, that would make them worth $21 million in 2003. A true market value was not established.

McWhorter was the only one of the defendants who did not plead guilty in the thefts.

Former NASA interns Tiffany Fowler, 26, Shae Saur, 20, were sentenced to 180 days house arrest and ordered to pay more than $9,000 restitution to the space agency. Thad Roberts, 26, who testified against McWhorter, has a sentencing hearing scheduled Oct. 29.

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