Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Man pleads guilty to selling fake moon rocks
Posted: November 3, 2000

Astronaut John Young on lunar surface during Apollo 16. Photo: NASA
On October 30, 2000, Richard Keith Mountain (AKA: Nicholas Parker Cole), New Milford, CT, appeared before United States Magistrate Morton Silver, District of Arizona, and entered a plea of guilty to six counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to sell alleged "moon rocks" to interested buyers. Mountain had been previously indicted by a Federal Grand Jury, in April 1999, on 24 counts of mail and wire fraud for misrepresenting to the prospective buyers that the materials he was selling were collected from the surface of the moon during the July 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing.

This investigation found that the sand-like granules sold by Mountain were not of lunar origin. The April 29, 1999, indictment alleged that Mountain, using the alias of Nicholas Parker Cole, owned and operated several businesses in Arizona and California to identify, solicit, and defraud prospective "moon rock" buyers throughout the United States, Australia, and Canada. As a result of the plea, Mountain faces a possible prison term of 5 years and fines totaling $250,000. Sentencing has been set for January 8, 2001.

Special Agents from the NASA Office of Inspector General, Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted this investigation. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Michael T. Shelby, District of Arizona.