Ken’s Korner: Man charged with smuggling fossils
News & Views from the World of Antiques & Collectibles
By Ken Hall
Eric Prokopi of Florida, a self-described “commercial paleontologist,” has been charged with smuggling dinosaur fossils into the United States from Mongolia. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him, which include smuggling goods into the U.S., interstate sale and receipt of stolen goods, conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods, possessing stolen property and making false statements. Officials described his operation as a “one-man black market in prehistoric fossils.” Prokopi denies any wrongdoing.
The fossils included a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus Bataar, a dinosaur that lived about 70 million years ago, and the skeleton of a Saurolophus, a dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period. The Tyrannosaurus Bataar was sold at auction in early 2012 for $1.05 million. When word of the sale reached the government of Mongolia, it notified authorities in the U.S. of Prokopi’s activities. The Saurolophus was sold by Prokopi to a gallery in California, along with two other dinosaurs native to Mongolia, for undisclosed sums.