Florida man charged in NY dinosaur fossils case

Oct 17, 2012 by Suzette Laboy

(AP)—A Florida man was charged Wednesday with smuggling dinosaur fossils into the United States, including a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton from Mongolia, federal prosecutors said.

Eric Prokopi, a self-described "commercial paleontologist" who buys and sells whole and partial dinosaur skeletons, was arrested at his home in Gainesville, according to a complaint unsealed by prosecutors. He was charged with smuggling goods into the U.S. and interstate sale and receipt of stolen goods.

He also faces one count of conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods, possess stolen property and make false statements. If convicted on all of the charges, he could face up to 35 years in prison.

During an appearance Wednesday in federal court in Gainesville, U.S. District Judge Gary R Jones ordered Prokopi to be held on $100,000 bond. He must also surrender his passport and will be under home detention. A phone message left with his attorney by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

The arrest was handled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the investigation "uncovered a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils." The U.S. government seized the Tyrannosaurus skeleton earlier this year after it was sold by an auction house for $1.05 million.

Prokopi did not immediately respond to a phone call, but his attorney has said he did nothing wrong.

Prokopi has been involved in a lawsuit in New York over the auction because the Mongolian government has said it may belong to that country. Prokopi's attorney in the lawsuit, Michael McCullough, has said his client is entitled to keep the creature he spent a year putting together at great expense.

McCullough has said the U.S. government was incorrect when it alleged that the skeleton pieces were brought into the country in one $15,000 shipment. He said there were three other shipments and only 37 percent of the completed skeleton came from one specimen.

Federal prosecutors said Prokopi misrepresented the identity, origin and value of the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus bataar, a dinosaur that lived approximately 70 million years ago.

Prokopi also is accused of illegally importing from Mongolia the skeleton of a Saurolophus, another dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period that he sold to a gallery in California along with fossils of two other dinosaurs native to Mongolia, Gallimimus and Oviraptor mongoliensis. He also imported the fossilized remains of a Microraptor, a small, flying dinosaur from China, the complaint said.

Prokopi brought the fossils into the country between 2010 and 2012, prosecutors said.

Explore further: Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Florida man defends dinosaur's import

Jun 22, 2012

(AP) — A Florida dealer of fossils who acquired a dinosaur skeleton that the government plans to seize Friday says he wants others to develop a love of science and is "not some international bone smuggler."

US seizes 'Ty' the dinosaur in NY

Jun 22, 2012

(AP) — The U.S. government seized a rare dinosaur skeleton Friday in what observers for the Mongolian government and a dinosaur expert called an important step toward returning the skeleton to its home in Mongolia.

US sues to force return of dinosaur to Mongolia

Jun 19, 2012

(AP) — The fossil of a dinosaur that roamed the earth 70 million years ago should be turned over to the United States by an auction house so that it can be returned to its home in Mongolia, a lawsuit brought by the U.S. ...

Indictment returned in NYC computer hacking case

May 03, 2012

(AP) -- The name of a Chicago man already charged in a computer hacking case aimed at taking out key players in the worldwide group Anonymous was added to an indictment Wednesday, boosting the accusations against him by ...

Canadian man pleads guilty to poker charges

Sep 19, 2012

(AP)—A Canadian man who once led the payment processing at two online poker companies pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy and gambling charges, agreeing to cooperate in the government's crackdown on the businesses.

Recommended for you

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

13 hours ago

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

21 hours ago

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. ...

Research shows Jaws didn't kill his cousin

Dec 16, 2014

New research suggests our jawed ancestors weren't responsible for the demise of their jawless cousins as had been assumed. Instead Dr Robert Sansom from The University of Manchester believes rising sea levels ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.