Tarbosaurus : The Tip of the Dinosaur Black Market Iceberg
A Florida man who allegedly operated “a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils” was arrested and indicted Wednesday, for illegally importing dinosaur skeletons from China and Mongolia.
Eric Prokopi, 38, of Gainesville, was due to appear in court Wednesday afternoon.
“As alleged, our recent seizure of the Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was merely the tip of the iceberg,” said US attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the arrest in Manhattan. “In addition to our commitment to ensuring that these relics are returned to their countries of origin, we are equally committed to shutting down Prokopi’s illegal business and holding him to account for his alleged crimes.”
Prokopi is charged with one count of conspiracy involving smuggling illegal goods, possessing stolen property and making false statements. He is also charged with smuggling goods into the United States and with interstate sale and receipt of stolen goods.
According to the indictment: “Between 2010 and 2012, the defendant acquired dinosaur fossils from foreign countries and unlawfully transported them to the United States, misrepresenting the contents of the shipments on customs forms. Many of the fossils in Prokopi’s possession were indigenous to Mongolia and could only be found in that country.”
Among the fossils imported by Prokopi, prosecutors allege, were a Saurolophus later sold to a California gallery, a Gallimimus and Oviraptor mongoliensis from Mongolia and the remains of a Microraptor, a small, flying dinosaur, from China.