T-Rex returned to Mongolia after skeleton was smuggled into the United States

Posted By CAROLINE LEE, UPI.com   |   May 6, 2013 at 4:51 PM   |   Comments

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May 6 (UPI) -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned a 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton to Mongolia after it was smuggled to the United States, according to the Washington Post.

The dinosaur was seized in New York after it sold at a Manhattan auction for $1.05 million. It is thought to be found in the Gobi Desert, though when it was shipped, its import documents listed the country of origin as Great Britain.

The Tyrannosaurus bataar is considered to be the Asian species of the Tyrannosaurus rex and is known as its "sister taxon." This dinosaur have only been found in Mongolia, though, according to an ICE statement.

The president of Mongolia sent a letter in May to request forfeiture of the skeleton, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York began an investigation with ICE.

Eric Prokopi, the importer of the skeleton, was arrested on one count of conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods, possess stolen property, and make false statements. Prokopi is a self-described "commercial paleontologist" from Gainesville, Fla.

Prokopi, 38, pleaded guilty shortly after his arrest to an engaging in a scheme to illegally import dinosaur fossils removed from their native countries and illegally smuggling them into the United States.

Prokopi surrendered the Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons and three other skeletons as part of his plea deal.

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