Eric Prokopi, a Florida-based man who bills himself as a “commercial paleontologist,” is facing 35 years in prison for allegedly smuggling dinosaur fossils, including the skeleton of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Bataar found in Mongolia, the Associated Press reports.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is prosecuting the case, which accuses Mr. Prokopi of “conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods, possess stolen property and make false statements.” His attorney denied the charges, though he has yet to enter a plea. He is currently being held on $100,000 bond in Florida.
Meanwhile, the Mongolian government is investigating whether it believes the skeleton may, in fact, belong to them. And there are more allegations. From the story:
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.
The T-rex skeleton is currently in the hands of the U.S. government, which confiscated it after it sold for $1.05 million at auction this year.