Florida dinosaur fossil dealer admits to smuggling $1m+ bones

You may remember that Paul Fraser Collectibles reported on the auction of a tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton back in May, which brought $1.1m to Heritage Auctions. Even then, the sale was controversial, but now the Florida dinosaur fossil dealer behind the consignment has admitted to smuggling the skeleton from Mongolia.

T bataar dinosaur
The sale was highly anticipated as complete skeletons such as this are rarely seen

Following a New York trial, Eric Prokopi now faces a maximum of 17 years in prison when he receives his sentence in April 2013.

The extremely rare tyrannosaurus bataar remains were first discovered in Mongolia's Gobi Desert, and the country has been seeking their return through the courts since the original sale.

US Attorney Preet Bharara commented: "Fossils and ancient skeletal remains are part of the fabric of a country's natural history and cultural heritage, and black marketers like Prokopi who illegally export and sell these wonders, steal a slice of that history."

Prior to the May auction, Heritage Auctions' president Greg Rohan said: "We have legal assurances from our reputable consignors that the specimen was obtained legally."

The skeleton was part of a much larger list of fossilised dinosaur bones that Prokopi illegally imported, which includes another tyrannosaurus skeleton that was discovered in his home. According to the BBC, Prokopi was arrested in October just as another lorry of rare bones was delivered to his door.

Unfortunately, the tyrannosaurus remains are not the first illegally imported fossils he has sold at auction; a California auction house sold one of his saurolophus skeletons for $75,000, though this was later confiscated.

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