Joseph Gutheinz

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Joseph Gutheinz
Born (1955-08-13) August 13, 1955 (age 61)
Nationality American
Alma mater Monterey Peninsula College
California State University, Sacramento
University of Southern California
South Texas College of Law
Occupation Educator, attorney, author, retired law enforcement officer

Joseph Richard Gutheinz (born August 13, 1955) is an American attorney, college instructor, commissioner, writer, and former Army intelligence officer, Army aviator, and Federal law enforcement officer.[1] He is known as the founder of the "Moon Rock Project" which aims to track down missing Apollo moon rock samples.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Joseph Gutheinz's father was a lieutenant colonel in the US Marines and a veteran of WW-ll, China, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and his mother, Rita O’Leary Gutheinz, was a Marine Corps enlisted woman;[3] his grandfather was an Army veteran of WW-l and was wounded by mustard gas in that war; his great grandfather was an Army veteran of the American Civil War.[4][5][6] He holds six college degrees from Monterey Peninsula College, California State University, Sacramento, the University of Southern California and South Texas College of Law, and eight teaching credentials and ten law licenses.[7] He is an attorney at law (1996 to present)[8][9] He has taught for Central Texas College, Alvin Community College,[10] Thurgood Marshall Law School,[11] and for the University of Phoenix[12] from 2002 to present. He is a former Commissioner on the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (2013–), having been appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry.[13][14][15][16] He has served as a Member of the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment (2009 to 2012).[17][18] He has served as a Member of the Texas Criminal Justice Advisory Committee on Medical and Mental Impairments (2004 to 2008).[19][20][21] He is a former advisor to the Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.[22][23]

Gutheinz is also the founder of the law practice Gutheinz Law Firm, LLP. Two of his sons are partners in the firm, both of whom are also Army veterans as he is.[3]

NASA Office of Inspector General cases[edit]

Joseph Gutheinz during the Omniplan Investigation

Gutheinz led the Omniplan task force investigation, which determined that Omniplan, a NASA contractor, was submitting false claims to NASA. The company had claimed it was leasing through three companies that were in fact shell companies controlled by Omniplan's owner Ralph Montijo. Gutheinz created the task force with 25 agents, inspectors, auditors and a financial analyst from eight agencies. Thed investigation led to the closure of 7 companies, making it one of the highest profile in NASA history at that time.[24][25][26] Gutheinz subsequently gave a speech to the International Business Forum about the Omniplan case, a speech attended by one of the principal defense attorneys in that case.[27][28]

In the 1990s Gutheinz also served as the case agent in a joint investigation with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General investigating the Arkansas Aerospace Education Center.[29] Gutheinz led the Rockwell, United Space Alliance and Boeing North America task force investigation that resulted in a Federal civil lawsuit and an out of court settlement. In the civil suit the government alleged that Rockwell Space Operation's Company knew of Omniplan's fraudulent leases and failed to properly disclose that information to NASA or law enforcement.[30][31] Gutheinz also investigated and arrested Jerry Alan Whittredge, an astronaut impersonator.[32] Gutheinz also investigated the Russian space program and a fire and collision on the Mir space station.[33][34]

Operation Lunar Eclipse[edit]

Gutheinz led and went undercover in Operation Lunar Eclipse, a sting operation to recover the Honduras Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock.[35][36][37][38][39] The Honduras Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock had been offered to Gutheinz for 5 million dollars, and Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot put up the money which facilitated the moon rock's recovery. The three agencies in Operation Lunar Eclipse were NASA Office of Inspector General (SSA Joseph Gutheinz aka Tony Coriasso), the United States Postal Inspection Service (Inspector Bob Cregger aka John Marta) and United States Customs (SA David Attwood and SA Dwight Weikel). Operation Lunar Eclipse was designed to catch con-artists selling terrestrial rocks and dust and offering them as Apollo era moon rocks and lunar dust. Upon determining that the seller of the Honduras Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock was selling a genuine Apollo era moon rock, Gutheinz investigated further and determined that there was a lack of accountability on all the Apollo 11 and 17 Moon Rocks and lunar dust that the Nixon, Ford and Carter Administrations gifted away to the states and nations of the world. Gutheinz had previously requested, in 1998-1999, that NASA OIG attempt to account for the gifted moon rocks and lunar dust. In December 2011 NASA OIG revealed the finding of an audit they conducted on loaned, not gifted, Apollo era lunar samples, which revealed a lack of accountability by both NASA and the recipient individuals and entities.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46]

Federal service awards[edit]

Exceptional Service Medal

Gutheinz has received awards from six Federal agencies and one state for his governmental service. These awards include the NASA Exceptional Service Medal; the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency Career Achievement Award;[47] the NASA Superior Accomplishment Award (Special Act or Service) for his investigation of the Russian Mir Space Station fire and collision; a Special Commendation from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas as well as a Letter of Commendation from the Director of the FBI, for his leadership of the Omniplan task force investigation; a Certificate of Appreciation from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas for his leadership in the Lockheed-Martin investigation; a United States Department of Transportation Certificate of Achievement for Superior Performance for his investigation of the Denver Airport and pilots covered by the FBI/FAA pilot match program; and the Honor Graduate Pin from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as well as a Letter of Commendation from the Department of Treasury, for graduating first in his class in the Criminal Investigators Course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.[1][48][49]

Aviation safety and security[edit]

Technical rendition[clarification needed] of STS-71 docked to Mir

Gutheinz has been on American news shows and been quoted in print publications about aviation safety and security.[50][51][52] His activism over aviation safety and security began when he was a student aviator and saw a friend die in a helicopter crash at the U.S. Army flight school and continued thereafter with his past assignments as a Special Agent with The FAA Civil Aviation Security; a Special Agent for U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General; a Senior Special Agent with NASA Office of Inspector General and as an advisor and spokesperson for the Coalition for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.[53][54] Gutheinz is an advocate for greater transparency in NASA.[55][56] Since retiring from NASA, he has been critical of NASA's handling of the Columbia disaster and post Columbia decisions.[57][58][59] He has also been critical of the lack of policing for American air balloon pilots.[60][61]

The Moon Rock Project[edit]

Gutheinz created and led The Moon Rock Project at the University of Phoenix, a project where criminal justice graduate students investigated and tracked down missing Apollo 11 lunar samples and Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rocks.[62][63][64]

Moon rocks retained by state governors[edit]

Gutheinz and his students have assisted in successfully tracking down 79 missing Apollo 11 lunar samples and Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rocks and plaques, including three that were retained by Governor John Vanderhoof of Colorado,[65] Governor Arch Moore, Jr. of West Virginia,[66] and Governor Kit Bond of Missouri.[67] On March 16, 2013, the Oprah Winfrey Network's television show Lost and Found aired a show titled "Unbelievable Mysteries Solved", which included Gutheinz, his former graduate student Sandra Shelton, and the recovery of the West Virginia Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock.[68]

Cyprus' Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock[edit]

In 2009 Associated Press reporter Toby Sterling took interest in Gutheinz's Moon Rock Project and then enlisted the efforts of other AP reporters. With Gutheinz's assistance they tracked down additional moon rocks.[69][70] Gutheinz determined that both the Cyprus Apollo 11 lunar samples and Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock, had both been taken or destroyed during Cyprus civil disturbances of 1973 and 1974,[71][72] but later discovered that the Cyprus Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock was in the possession of a deceased American diplomat's child whose father worked at the American Embassy in Cyprus.[73] Following this he made public requests for the rock to be returned.[74] On April 16, 2010 the NASA Office of Inspector General at Johnson Space Center took custody of the rock.[75]

Canada's Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock[edit]

In 2002, Gutheinz first assigned his University of Phoenix students to track down Canada's Apollo 17 Moon Rock. Their efforts discerned that the moon rock and plaque were unaccounted for and believed stolen decades earlier. Gutheinz's students tracked down the moon rock to a storage facility at the Canadian Museum of Nature. In 2009 Gutheinz and his students pressured Canada and the Museum to place the Canadian Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock on display for the 40th anniversary Apollo 11. The moon rock was transferred to the Canadian Science and Technology Museum and placed on display in 2009.[76][77][78]

Other moon rocks[edit]

In 2012 Gutheinz traveled to Buffalo, Texas, to look at an alleged Apollo era moon rock being sold on EBay for $300,000.[79][80] Gutheinz has also been critical of NASA's handling of moon rocks to include loaned moon rocks and the lack of security some temporary recipients have provided to America's Apollo era lunar samples.[81]

Moon Rock Project in popular culture[edit]

Because of Gutheinz's efforts to find missing and stolen moon rocks for over a decade he has acquired a nickname: "The Moon Rock Hunter". This nickname was originally given to Gutheinz by his graduate students, as a joking takeoff on "The Crocodile Hunter".[82][83][84][85][86][87] Two documentaries have been made about his investigations, Moon for Sale (2007) and Lunarcy! (2012).

Television and film[edit]

In 2013 he and his student were on one episode of Unbelievable Mysteries on the OWN Network.[88] In 2014 Joe Gutheinz appeared on Lost History with Brad Meltzer on the History Channel.[89] In 2015 a documentary about Joe Gutheinz and his students, Missing Moon Rocks, won an Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary.[90] In 2016 Gutheinz appeared in eleven episodes of NASA’s Unexplained Files on the Science Channel.[91] Joe Gutheinz is also acting in a film entitled Operation Lunar Eclipse about his 1998 undercover sting operation of the same name. Filming locations for the movie have included Kennedy Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Washington D.C., Miami, and Honduras. A release date is set to come some time in 2017.[92]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gutheinz, Joseph R. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Alvin Community College. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  2. ^ Hennessy-Fiske, Molly (February 7, 2012). "Finding Lost Moon Rocks is His Mission". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Friendswood Law is "All in the Family"". 
  4. ^ "Son returns home from war in Afghanistan". 
  5. ^ "New generation in a family tradition". 
  6. ^ "Joseph Gutheinz". Who's Who in American Politics - 26th Edition. 2014. 
  7. ^ "Press Release". Goddard Space Flight Center. October 1, 2012. [dead link]
  8. ^ Orozco, Yvette (June 10, 2007). "New generation in a family tradition: it's service and duty to your country – James Gutheinz". The Pasadena Citizen. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Newpher, Jeff (July 27, 2011). "Friendswood Law is All in the Family". The Friendswood Journal. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  10. ^ "ACC Students Learn From Mock Trial". Alvin Community College, Ultimate Pearland. August 30, 2012. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Member biography". Republican National Lawyers Association. 
  12. ^ "Online Advantage: People on Campus". The University of Phoenix. 2004. Archived from the original on August 31, 2004. 
  13. ^ "Eighty-Third Legislature - Regular Session: Proceedings: 21st Day". Senate Journal Online. Austin, Texas. March 4, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Senate Public Notice Hearing". Texas Legislature Online. Austin, Texas. March 11, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Joseph Gutheinz". Texas State Directory Online. 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Texas People: Joseph Gutheinz". Texas Bar Journal. 76 (6): 502. June 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Governor appoints ACC professor to council". The Alvin Sun-Advertiser. July 5, 2009. pp. 1–2. (subscription required (help)). 
  18. ^ "Gov. Perry Appoints Three to Council on Sex Offender Treatment". Office of the Governor of the State of Texas. June 23, 2009. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Joseph Richard Gutheinz, Jr.". Texas State Directory. 
  20. ^ "Gov. Perry Appoints Nine to Texas Department of Criminal Justice Advisory Committee On Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments". Office of the Governor of the State of Texas. December 30, 2004. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Governor Taps Clear Lake Man – Texas Criminal Justice Advisory Committee on Offenders with Medical and Mental Impairments". The Clear Lake Citizen. January 5, 2005. p. 2. 
  22. ^ Morelli, Keith (August 9, 2008). "Tampa airport is on TSA's list to get body-scanning equipment". The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  23. ^ Steffy, Loren (August 16, 2009). "9 hours in a tin can? There's got to be a better way". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Businessman Is Sentenced For Bilking Space Agency". The New York Times. 17 January 1996. 
  25. ^ Carreau, Mark (November 3, 1993). "Grand Jury Indicts 7 in NASA Scam Case". Houston Chronicle. 
  26. ^ "NASA Contractor Admits Multimillion-dollar Fraud: OMNI Contractor admits 179 counts of fraud and embezzlement". Houston Post. February 1, 1995. pp. 1A & 11A. 
  27. ^ Johnson, Laura (February 3, 1995). "Omniplan Owners Plead Guilty". The Citizen. p. 1. 
  28. ^ Cooper, C.R. (January 19, 2000). "Omniplan Defrauded NASA Through Elaborate Scheme". The Citizen. p. 4. 
  29. ^ Gallman, Judith M. (July 5, 1996). "Aero Center spending in the spotlight". Arkansas Times. p. 8. 
  30. ^ Cooper, C.R. (January 19, 2000). "Aerospace Firms Asked to Pay for Fraud". The Citizen. pp. 1 & 13. 
  31. ^ Cooper, C.R. (January 26, 2000). "Space Firms Deny Any Links to Fraud Case". The Citizen. pp. 1 & 4. 
  33. ^ "Some question NASA experts' objectivity - U.S. Senator Bill Nelson". 
  34. ^ Roth, Bennett (September 19, 1997). "Wary House Panel Weighs Halting Mir Participation". Houston Chronicle. pp. 1A & 16A. 
  35. ^ Associated Press (December 8, 1998). "Apollo 17 Moon Rock Recovered: Plan to Sell Rock for $5m". 
  36. ^ Gutierrez Henson, Liz (December 16, 1998). "Moon rock business gets man date with feds". The Citizen. Clear Lake, Texas. pp. 1 & 4. 
  37. ^ Strevli, Ted (March 27, 2003). "Judge Rules against Moon Rock Sends it Back to Honduras". Galveston Daily News. p. 1. 
  38. ^ Ahuja, Anjana (July 20, 2004). "Lost: the Hottest Rocks on Earth". The Times. London, UK. pp. 8–9. 
  39. ^ van der Grijp, Paul (2006). Passion and Profit: Towards an anthropology of collecting. Berlin: LIT Verlag. p. 145. ISBN 978-3825892586. 
  40. ^ Ervin, Eric (April 2, 2003). "Moon Rock Going Back to Owner". Clear Lake Citizen. p. 9A. Gutheinz a special agent from Clear Lake posed as (Tony) Coriasso 
  41. ^ Martens, Kristine (2003). "Case Summary: United States of America v. One Lucite Ball Containing Lunar Material (One Moon Rock) and One Ten Inch by Fourteen Inch Wooden Plaque". 2003 DePaul University Journal of Art and Entertainment Law. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  42. ^ Gutheinz, Joseph R. (2003). "The Moon Rock Con". collectSPACE. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  43. ^ "US returns moon rock to Honduras". BBC News. London, UK. September 23, 2003. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  44. ^ Ervin, Eric (October 1, 2003). "Moon rock finally back in Honduras". The Citizen. Clear Lake, Texas. p. 6A. 
  45. ^ Associated Press (March 1, 2004). "NASA returns stolen moon rock to Honduras". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  46. ^ Merryman, John Henry; Clark, David Scot; Haley, John Owen (2010). Comparative Law: Historical Development on the Civil Law Tradition in Europe, Latin America and East Asia. New Providence, N.J.: LexisNexis. p. 160. ISBN 9781422474785. 
  47. ^ "University of Phoenix Faculty Member Featured in BBC and Discovery Channel Documentaries" (PDF). Online Patriot. University of Phoenix. 5 (2): 5. Summer 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 16, 2012. 
  48. ^ "Finding the Missing Moon Rocks (Abstract)". Goddard Space Flight Center Colloquium. October 1, 2012. Archived from the original on February 17, 2013. 
  49. ^ Marquis Who's Who in America. 1, A-K (58th ed.). 2004. pp. 2066–2067. 
  50. ^ Levin, Alan (February 3, 2003). "Some Question NASA Experts Objectivity: Critics Would Prefer an Outside Body to Look into Shuttle Break-up". USA Today. p. A3. 
  51. ^ Bridis, Ted (AP) (August 29, 2003). "NASA Advised to Clean Out Web Site after Tragedy". Oakland Tribune. p. 6. Gutheinz said it was inappropriate to remove any documents until investigators reviewed them 
  52. ^ Dunn, Marcia (June 24, 2004). "Risky Spacewalk Bends the Rules". Houston Chronicle. p. A3. Gutheinz asked if it was safe to send an entire crew out without anyone left behind to monitor systems 
  53. ^ Herbert, Keith (March 2, 2004). "Pilot had a record of intoxication offenses". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. B1 & B4. Gutheinz said a pilot with previous alcohol or drug problems should lose his or her flying privileges 
  54. ^ Sandler, Larry (May 5, 2004). "Air marshals win procedures changes: Undercover agents won't have to sign in publicly, officials say". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
  55. ^ Associated Press (August 29, 2003). "NASA proposed 'complete scrub' of web site after shuttle disaster". The Daily News. Galveston Texas. p. A10. 
  56. ^ Dunn, Marcia (Associated Press) (July 26, 2005). "Liftoff Today Without Worries". San Jose Mercury News. p. 12A. 
  57. ^ Levin, Alan (February 6, 2003). "Some Question NASA Experts Objectivity". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  58. ^ Dunn, Marcia (Associated Press) (June 24, 2004). "Russian, American to attempt risky spacewalk". The World. Coos Bay, Oregon. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  59. ^ Associated Press (July 26, 2005). "NASA will launch even if fuel gauge problems recurs". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  60. ^ TEGNA. "FAA oversight of balloon pilots lacking". 
  61. ^ TEGNA. "News 8 Investigates exclusive: Pilots flying under the radar". 
  62. ^ Kimberlin, Joanne (September 22, 2005). "Moon Rocks: More Precious than Diamonds". The Virginia-Post. pp. 1, A12 & A13. 
  63. ^ Memmott, Mark (May 7, 2010). "Some Moon Rocks Given To Other Nations Missing". National Public Radio Blog. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  64. ^ "Streit um Mini-Brocken Nasa luchst US-Rentnerin Mondgestein ab". Spiegel Online (in German). March 24, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  65. ^ O'Connor, Colleen (June 1, 2010). "Moon Rocks Given to Colorado Have Vanished". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  66. ^ Steelhammer, Rick (June 4, 2010). "Long Missing W.Va. Moon Rock Believed Found in Morgantown". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Charleston, West Virginia. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. 
  67. ^ Silvey, Janese (July 8, 2010). "Moon Rock Discovery a False Alarm". Columbia Daily Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  68. ^ "Lost and Found Episode: Unbelievable Mysteries Solved, Season 1, Episode 8". TV Guide Online. March 2, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  69. ^ Sterling, Toby. "Apollo moon rocks lost in space? No, lost on Earth". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  70. ^ Sterling, Toby (September 14, 2009). "Who's Minding the Moon Rocks". The Austin American Statesman. p. A8. 
  71. ^ "Rodger P. Davies". NNDB. 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2015. 
  72. ^ Millett, Lucy (September 17, 2009). "Moon rocks went missing around the world". Cyprus Mail. 
  73. ^ Millett, Lucy (September 18, 2009). "Cyprus a victim of lunar larceny". Cyprus Mail. 
  74. ^ Millett, Lucy (September 18, 2009). "US Congress may look into missing Cyprus moon rock". Cyprus Mail. Archived from the original on July 15, 2010. 
  75. ^ "Cyprus Moon Rock Found". Cyprus Mail. May 6, 2010. 
  76. ^ Drudi, Cassandra (July 21, 2009). "Canada's 'Goodwill Moon Rock' Going Back on Display". Windsor Star. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  77. ^ Hewitt, Pat; Fuller, Amy (July 21, 2009). "Moon Rocks in Storage: Ex NASA Officials Says Canada Should Display its Piece of History". The Chronicle Herald. pp. B1 & B2. 
  78. ^ Drudi, Cassandra (July 22, 2009). "Our Bit of the Moon Finally has Day in the Sun". Ottawa Citizen. pp. C1 & C2. 
  79. ^ "Abogado de Houston rastrea piedras lunares desaparecidas" [Houston attorney tracks missing moon rocks]. Terra. 13 May 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  80. ^ Graczyk, Michael (Associated Press) (May 23, 2012). "Lawyer appeals for of moon rocks: Many given as gifts are now missing". The Washington Times. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  81. ^ Hyland, Andy (August 6, 2009). "Moon Rock to Land at KU". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  82. ^ Helse, Ryan (February 10, 2012). "NASA's retired 'moon rock hunter' still searching for lunar artifacts". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  83. ^ Eversley, Melanie (February 19, 2012). "Former NASA Agent Toils to Find Missing Moon Rocks". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  84. ^ Hennessy-Fiske, Molly (February 13, 2012). "Mission: The moon (rocks), Joseph Gutheinz is the finder of lost lunar relics". Ashland Daily Tidings. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  85. ^ "Moon Rock Hunter". The Bryan Times. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  86. ^ "The Case of the Missing Moon Rocks". The Atavist Magazine. February 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  87. ^ Crowder, Courtney (April 26, 2013). "Review: 'The Case of the Missing Moon Rocks' by Joe Kloc". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2015. 
  88. ^ "Lost and Found". 3 January 2013 – via IMDb. 
  89. ^ "Profile". 22 November 2012. 
  90. ^ "Joseph Gutheinz, Attorney". 
  91. ^ "NASA's Unexplained Files". 27 March 2012 – via IMDb. 
  92. ^ "Houston-area attorney's quest to find moon rocks leads to feature film - Texas Bar Blog". 3 November 2016. 

Further reading[edit]